Hampton University Museum

I've been wanting to get to the Hampton History Museum for awhile now, and it was one of the must do items on our summer list. I think it's really important to have the kids visit art museums and to see perspectives from cultures different than our own. 

The museum was founded in 1868 and was the first museum of African American art. It is also one of the oldest museums in Virginia. The museum has galleries dedicated fo African American, African, Native American, Asian, and Pacific art. 

We spent about 35 minutes in the museum. Some of the high points were the tools that we saw in some of the art, the colors, the way that different artists used different mediums, and the subject matter. We had some great discussions about the Underground Railroad and the life of Harriet Tubman. We also talked a lot about the way Native Americans lived in different houses depending on their needs, and the natural resources that they used. The museum hit several points that directly support the Virginia SOLs at the elementary level. 

If you'd like to visit, the museum is free. You'll pass a guard on the campus who will direct you to the free parking lot. The museum is open Monday-Friday 8-5, and closed on weekends and major holidays. No photographs or videotaping is allowed inside. 

Daniel's Tiger Neighborhood: A GRR-IFIC Exhibit

Now open at the Children's Museum of Virginia, Daniel Tigers Neighborhood: A GRR-IFIC Exhibit brings themes from the show (which is a recreation of the beloved Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood. The exhibit allows visitors to enter into Daniel's neighborhood. In the show Daniel is four, and this exhibit is great for that age and younger. 

The exhibit was created by the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh (where Mr. Rodgers was from!) and is here until July 7th. It includes Mr. Rodgers' original sweater, and a photo of him wearing it. 

Nassau, Bahamas

Our Carnival Magic cruise had a stop in Nassau. I've been before, but never with kids, and to be honest some of the reviews had me worried. About two months ago, the new $300 million dollar upgraded port reopened after four years of construction. The port holds up to six ships at a time. Nassau is a city that relies on these tourists for their economy. That means that the people can sometimes come off as aggressive when trying to make a sale. We prepped our kids before going into the straw market and they did great. 

After leaving the straw market, we headed to Junkanoo Beach about fifteen minutes away. At this free beach, you will have people asking you to rent jet skis and beach chairs, but a simple no thank you sufficed for us. We had a great day at the beach and spent almost no money besides a few little trinkets in the Straw Market. If we ever return, I'd love to rent paddle boats or jet skis! 

Checkout more on our trip here. 

Freeport Bahamas

While on our Carnival Magic cruise, we stopped in Freeport in the Bahamas. We chose to purchase the Unexso Dolphin Close Encounter, and it was the highlight of our trip! We purchased through Carnival, which means that the ship couldn't leave until we returned. After disembarking from the ship, we jumped on a bus which took us on a 30 minute ride around the island. Our driver gave us all kinds of info and it was nice to see more of the city. Upon arrival, we were given a brief safety overview before heading down to the docks. The program was both fun and educational, and watching the trainer was like being at a comedy show. 

Each family got to enter the water onto a waist deep platform to interact and engage with the dolphins. The trainers showed us how they train them and what calls and signs they use to have them complete different behaviors. 

One of the best things about this excursion is that all ages are allowed. I was able to hold my three year old in the water the whole time. Once the two hour program is complete, guests can interact with birds and tortoises and have a drink while waiting for everyone to finish up. We loved it! 

Carnival Magic

We just spent five days on the Carnival Magic ship, which leaves out of Norfolk, and had a blast. Our ship went to two stops in the Bahamas, Nassau and Freeport, and we had two days at sea. Click on the links to fid out what we did in each city. 

The ship had tons to do, including putt putt, basketball, soccer, a water park with slides and sprayers, pool, foosball, corn hole, giant chess, pools, hot tubs, shows, arcade, and a ropes course (height limit is 42 inches). There was a kids club that we could drop the boys off if we needed some adult time. 

Some tips: 

  • Download the Carnival app. Connect to their free wifi. Check it daily and mark all activities you want your family to participate in. There is everything from magic shows to trivia. You'll get a reminder. A note, the wifi will allow you to use the Carnival app and use imessage, but you won't be able to access anything else unless you buy the wifi package. 
  • Use the app to check the menus. We ate in the dining room every night and the food was amazing. There is a kids menu, although it isn't listed on the app. The wait staff will work with you to help make everyone happy. Also in the dining room be on the lookout for shows and a magician walking around doing tricks. 
  • Although it is not on the menu, everyone can order a banana split for dessert. Also, you can order a side of peanut butter with your chocolate melting cake. 
  • Bring and hide, and look for hidden rubber ducks around the ship. If you find one, you can hide it somewhere new. 
  • Hit the sit down breakfast at least once. Check in with your Carnival app to reserve your table. 
  • You can bring in one bottle of wine per person, plus a 12 pack of soda. You'll need to have this in your carry on. 
  • Bring magnetic clips. The walls and ceiling of your room will be metal. These are great for hanging wet bathing suits or anything else you need. 
  • Utilize the kids club. The kids club opens each morning and parents can drop off for as much or as little time as they would like. We would drop the kids off for an hour here and there. Kids club does not serve food, so you'll need to pick them up for meals. We didn't use it, but there is a late night program called Night Owls that parents can use for a fee from 10-1 am. Age groups are broken up, but while the ship is at port the kids have free range and are together in the club. We used the kids club as a way for our kids to have some time apart both from us, and from each other. The ages range from 2-17. The kids club is done by registration. Register early online. Don't wait until you get on the ship. 
  • Be advised that kids must be potty trained and not in a swim diaper to use the pools and water park. Also be aware that there are no bathtubs, only showers. 
  • We used these patches the entire time we were on board. They worked great and no one got sick. I did give the kids a dose of dramamine the night before we left, just in case, but I didn't need to keep giving it to them on the ship. Always at night so that it doesn't make them sleepy, even if it says non-drowsy. 
  • Sleeping arrangements for our family of four were a king size bed, a couch that turned into a bed and one pull down bed that turned into bunkbeds. We were comfortable in our room. 
  • I'm doing separate posts about excursions, but do be aware. Many other countries don't have car seat rules like America does. Additionally, many of the excursion offerings on our trip had age registrations that our three year old didn't meet. 
  • Check the happy hour deals at the Red Frog Bar. Also, do NOT miss the burritos from the Blue Iguana Cantina. 
  • Don't forget to pack fancy wear for the formal night of dinner. 

This was our first cruise with the kids. Having the kids club was great because it gave us some time to ourselves. Having a port right here in Norfolk means that we can easily hop on without travel time. Cruises are great family vacations because there is so much to do and having the kids' club gives parents some time to relax. In 2024 they will be redoing the cruise terminal, so no cruises will be coming or going, but in 2025 the ships will return and be here full time. We can't wait to go again! 

Aquaticus: Norfolk

As part of Nauticus's multimillion dollar redo, Nauticus is opening Aquaticus this weekend. Specifically for ages 2-12, this hands on play area encourages both fine and gross motor skill work. Kids can climb up to a ship where they can play at the steering wheel, slide down slides, run through a field of seaweed, and play with a variety of sensory items. 

Right now you can snag tickets for only $5 for the opening weekend online. They are also currently discounting their memberships by 50%. Nauticus already had one of the most affordable memberships around, so this makes them a really great deal. 

If you're coming with a dad or grandpa, they are doing a special event where you can purchase biodegradable golfballs which can be hit off of the back of the Wisconsin.