Greensboro Science Center

As summer winds down and families prepare to head back to school, I wanted to share with you a hidden gem right here in the NC Triad that can serve as both a last-minute daycation and an educational field trip.

Welcome to the Greensboro Science Center!

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The Greensboro Science Center is located on Lawndale Drive, just minutes off of I-40, and houses a museum, zoo, and aquarium. All can be accessed for one admission price of roughly $12. Also on site, but not included in admission, are a restaurant, a theater, and an outdoor adventure center. Hours vary between attractions, but all are open nearly year-round.

My family and I recently visited the science center, and had a wonderful time. These are a few of the highlights from our trip:

The Carolina ScQuarium is home to many animals, including sharks, stingrays, penguins, and otters! We began our day enjoying the stingrays and sharks; we were allowed to touch them! My niece said that the stingrays were very soft but the shark felt more like a lizard. At 10am, we ventured over to the African penguins where we listened to a presentation while they were being fed.


After we finished in the Aquarium, we headed over to Destination: Dinosaur. It was an exhibit of fossils and dinosaur replicas, which was both educational and fun! I knew T-Rex had tiny arms, but I guess I never really knew just how tiny until I saw the comparison between it and a smaller raptor.

Just around the corner from the dinosaur exhibit was HealthQuest. It was a room full of hands-on exhibits that covered everything from sneezing and gastrointestinal sounds to reflexes and nutrition.

Our next stop was the Animal Discovery Zoo! My youngest nephew enjoyed the goats and chickens in the petting zoo, while his older brother and sister checked out the wallabies. My favorite part of the zoo were the gibbons. They looked like they were having so much fun!

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As we looped around the zoo’s path, we stumbled upon Davis Kelly Fountain. It was not only beautiful (and entertaining to the younger kids) but was a refreshing spot for such a hot Carolina day. The fountains played music and the water sprayed to the rhythm of each song!

Adjacent to the fountain was the Discovery House. Here, you could see (and pet!) animals like the domestic rabbit, ferret, guinea pig, and this adorable chinchilla below. There were also armadillos, porcupines, snakes, and an Egyptian bat!

As you can imagine, we worked up quite the appetite with all of our adventures, so we heading back inside the main building to grab lunch at The Fresh Market Cafe. I was impressed by their selection of food; there was truly something for everyone. My mom and youngest nephew enjoyed hot dogs, my sister-in-law had a turkey and cranberry sandwich on wheat, another nephew has pizza, and my niece enjoyed mac and cheese. The Fresh Market Grill is very allergy friendly, so I had delicious gluten free chicken strips and hummus with carrots.

Once we had our bellies full, we played a bit in Sciplay Bay. There were several rooms with a mixture of interactive elements, stunning special effects, and live- action adventures.

We finished our day with the TWC Extreme Weather Gallery, learning about record rain falls, variances in hail sizes, and feeling hurricane-force winds.

We didn’t make it downstairs to the Herpetarium Exhibit. We were all tired and ready to head home. But I feel certain that we’ll go back. In addition to the exhibits we did not see, the science center is expanding! They’re on a three-phase plan with final construction scheduled to be completed by 2020. I highly recommend visiting the Greensboro Science Center on a regular basis over the next four years.

 

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. All photos © 2016 by jennonamission.



 

Ladies, It’s Time to Get: Outdoors!

After my failed attempt to paddle down the Yadkin in a tiny kayak a couple of months ago, I was in search of two things: someone who could fit me for the right sized kayak, and someone who could teach me how to maneuver it correctly. I was told that Great Outdoor Provision Co. would hold demos but when I checked their event calendar online, all local demos had already passed. I was starting to convince myself that it would be springtime before I would get to be fitted, when out-of-the-blue, a friend told me about a Demo Day in Greensboro through a company called Get: Outdoors. It was scheduled for July 23, and I already had plans for that day, so I jumped on the company’s website hopeful to find more Demo Days scheduled. What I found was even better.

Get: Outdoors has an amazing program called Women on the Water. (I love that the acronym is GO WOW.) The program is lead by JoAndra Proia, an ACA Certified Kayaking Instructor/Guide and Yoga Instructor. GO WOW offers women encouragement, support, and training for paddling flat water and beyond. Jo is passionate about unplugging from the digital world, sharing her knowledge of wildlife and nature, and teaching outdoor safety from kayaking to camping skills to first aid. Not only does GO WOW offer instruction, but they have many opportunities to utilize the skills that are learned in class with both day trips and overnight adventures. And it’s all for women only. How empowering!

I picked up the phone and immediately called Get: Outdoors to register for two classes that were being held on the same day, Intro to Kayaking and Foundations & Fundamentals 1. They were both held at the same location, one right after the other. The classes were only $35 each for two hours of instruction. The cost included kayak, life vest (PFDs), paddle, and lake fee. When I registered, I explained my previous experience and what I was hoping to find in a kayak. I was told that there would be several options of kayaks to choose from that day, and that fitting/demo was part of the class. I was ecstatic!

Just as promised, on the day of the class I was given the opportunity to demo any of the kayaks that Jo had brought. After chatting with her, and checking out the different makes and models, I ended up falling in love with the Perception Prodigy 12.0. It handled so easily, was just the right speed for me, and was surprisingly comfortable. At 12′ long, it only weighs around 50lbs. It includes knee/thigh pads around the open cockpit, slide lock foot braces, and an oval stern hatch.

The Intro to Kayaking class began at 10am. Many of us had very little paddling experience; some of us had no experience at all. Jo was thorough in making sure we were prepared well before we launched our boats. We had a PFD demonstration followed by how to enter and exit our kayaks. Once we were in the water, we covered the basics: forward paddle, reverse paddle, side sweep, and how to raft up.


Here are the participants from the Intro to Kayaking class at our first raft up. That’s me on the far right, at the end.


We’re working on our paddle grip in this photo. I have a tendency to hold my paddle too tight. The correct grip allows you to be able to wiggle your fingers. It took some getting used to, but I finally got it!


Jo had us team up to work on our side stroke. It’s hard to tell if you’re moving sideways without a stationary kayak beside of you. One of us would sit while the other paddled away. That way, we could better tell if we were actually moving to the side or forward.

At noon, class dismissed. Some of the ladies left. The three of us who were staying for the 1pm class had a nice lunch under the lake’s picnic shelter with Jo. We were able to ask additional questions and chat about paddling in general. It was fun learning about the history of Get: Outdoors, and all of Jo’s adventures!


At 1pm, the Foundations & Fundamentals class got underway. Those of us who had attended the morning class helped the “new” students with prepping. We grabbed a partner and shared our new-found knowledge with step-by-step instructions for PDFs and foot brace adjustment.

Once everyone was ready and boats were selected (I remained in the Prodigy), we headed back out on the water to learn more advanced maneuvers like “rainbow” sweeps, edging, steering with our hips, and spinning the kayak.

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Our afternoon raft up. 🙂


We even got in a little kay-yoga!

When class finished, we helped Jo load our kayaks back onto the trailer. I whispered “see you again soon” to the Prodigy, since Jo wouldn’t let me take her on home with me. haha [Get: Outdoors has an end-of-season sale in September where they offer their used boats at a discounted price. I am hoping to attend the sale and find my new-to-me kayak just in time for some last-minute fall paddling.] I left the marina around 3:15pm with a huge smile on my face. Yes, I had just received four hours of very educational training… but I also gained so much more. I had a new-found confidence, met some great people, and even had a sun-kissed glow on my arms and legs. (Hey, I don’t tan very easily so that’s a big deal to me!) It was such a wonderful experience. I just wanted to find a kayak that fit me but instead, I have found a new community of women with whom I can be adventurous.

Ladies, if you live in or around the NC Triad area and have ever considered paddling but aren’t sure where to begin, I highly recommend GO WOW. It is an experience that you will not regret. I hope to see you all on the water soon!


Happy Paddling!

I was not compensated for this post, and it contains no affiliate links. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way. Photo credit: JoAndra Proia

Kayaking Adventure

North Carolina is a wonderful place to live. (If you don’t live here, you should really consider a visit!) We’re blessed with so much in this state; from the highest peaks to the islands on our coast, there are a lot of places to see and things to do. So much so that I have barely scratched the surface myself, and I am a native Carolinian. I’ve decided, in my quest to visit all 50 states, that I would also make an effort to explore more of my own home state.

One adventure that I recently took was a river tour via kayak with Yadkin Riverkeeper. They’re a fantastic group of avid paddlers and environmentalists who have committed to promoting clean, healthy rivers… particularly the Yadkin River. The Yadkin is one of the longest rivers in NC, and is the northernmost part of the Pee Dee Drainage Basin. Most of their events take place in the summer, and are often relaxing, family-friendly journeys. If you don’t own a kayak/canoe, you can rent them from the organization for a minimal fee. (Roughly $30-40) The registration fee is $20.

[Side note: A coworker recently took up paddling. It sounded like something I would be interested in, since I always enjoyed white water rafting in my younger days. The idea of taking up paddling as a hobby piqued my interest, so I quickly considered purchasing my own kayak. In less than one week from making that decision, my neighbor (whom I didn’t even realize had a kayak) was selling his Pelican Vortex 80x for a very reasonable price. It was affordable. It was convenient. And it was blue… my favorite color. So I bought it!]

My coworker and I registered for the next available river tour and started planning our adventure. Two days before we were scheduled to leave, I realized that my kayak had a weight limit, and I was dangerously close to it. I started asking friends who paddle if I should be concerned but everyone seemed to think I would be fine. I even asked one of the outfitters on the day of the river tour, and he seemed to think I would be fine too. He did tell me that he would make sure that I looked safe before I launched though. He was kind enough to offer a rental kayak or even shuttle me back to my car if he felt I couldn’t make it down river in my own kayak.

All seemed a go when I climbed inside my boat, and we decided that he’d give me a push. I headed out into the river… and within three paddles, I immediately felt uneasy. I didn’t feel like I was going to sink, which was my initial fear. The Pelican Vortex was too fast, turned very quickly, and was unsteady for me. My experience on rivers had been in larger boats, longer and wider. I had never maneuvered something this small, and I was all over the river! And that’s when I realized, out of the 60+ paddlers in our group on the Yadkin at that moment, I had the smallest kayak. Even the professionals were in longer kayaks.

I basically had to let the water carry me (the river was low and the current wasn’t very fast for the most part) and I only paddled when I needed to over correct or stay upright. Despite traveling about 1/3 of the way trying to relax, I was overexerting myself. My muscles were tense and I was beyond thirsty… all because I was in a poorly sized kayak.  About that time, a guide – one of several scattered throughout the course to ensure all paddlers are comfortable and safe, came up from behind me. He apparently could tell I was struggling. After a short chat, he asked if I wanted out. I wasn’t sure if he meant ‘out of the river’ (which I didn’t want because the adventure was really cool) I replied, “I would like to be out of this kayak. I’m too big for this boat. I need a bigger one!”

Without hesitation, he made a quick call and within 60 seconds (or less), I was being circled by paddlers and a raft was on the way. As a runner, I have always bragged about how incredibly helpful and motivating that community is, but I have to admit that this community of paddlers were equally, if not MORE, supportive. I was so impressed with their care and concern, as well as their encouragement.

When the raft arrived, several paddlers cornered my kayak against it with theirs. It steadied my boat enough for me to be able to climb into the raft. Since there were no access points on the river for me to unload my kayak or get a bigger one, we ended up having to tie mine to the raft. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed to not get to experience the entire adventure in a kayak… but I still was able to see over 10 miles of the Yadkin from the river itself. (And Justin, who was rowing the giant 150lb raft – with two heavy objects in it, a full Yeti cooler and me! – couldn’t have been more awesome. We chatted, we told jokes, and we may or may not have sang a little too.

Despite the river tour not going completely as planned for me, I still strongly recommend it. You will be safe because you are surrounded by some of the best people I have ever met, and you will have a great time. Just make sure you have the properly sized boat. If you’re unsure of what style/model/size boat that you need, please go see the folks at Great Outdoor Provision Co. They have locations throughout NC. They’re located in Thruway Shopping Center in Winston-Salem, and in Friendly Shopping Center in Greensboro. Each location will hold a Demo Day where you can get expert advice on the right boat(s) for you, and then try them out before you buy them. (You can bet that I will be at the next one. Let this be a lesson learned… do not buy your kayak from a yard sale if you have never owned a kayak before, even if it is your neighbor selling it!)

If you would like to take up paddling but need to learn the basics, you can also find classes and meetups through your local Great Outdoor Provision Co. or contact the awesome folks at Yadkin Riverkeeper.

Paddling the rivers of NC is a unique way to experience this state. It’s a great alternative to a more expensive (and often less adventurous) vacation too. If you have any questions, please comment below or reach out to me on Facebook or Twitter. I hope I see y’all out on the water soon!

[Click here to see a video, courtesy of and copyrighted by Justin.]