Monday, August 8, 2016

Exploring Aquariums & Forts in NC

Since we had visited New Bern with Daddy last year and completed most of the touristy stuff already, I wanted to try some new things with the boys this year.  Of course, I also had to keep in mind that I was flying solo and needed to keep things simple and easy.  After our fun day spent in Kinston with our dear friends, I checked to see if there was a groupon offer for an admission discount to one of our states' aquariums that is located at the beach about 40 miles away.  There was a really great discount offer which saved us a lot of money so we decided to try that the next day.  I also thought we may have time to visit Fort Macon, another historical fort in our state that is on the same island as the aquarium.  It is also another great spot for a beach visit too.  So after breakfast, I got all the kids packed up into the car for the drive to the beach.  First, we stopped for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant in Atlantic Beach before heading south to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.  The boys all behaved so wonderfully for Mommy at lunch and at the aquarium although I did lose sight of Brody a couple of times.  That boy thinks he is grown!

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The first cool thing we saw at the aquarium was this awesome sand sculpture outside.  Apparently, they do one every summer. This one had a turtle theme. 

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The inside of the aquarium walked you through the three different regions of the state (Coastal, Piedmont and Mountains) to see the various water wildlife in each. 

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Brody sort of fell in love with this frog.  I just always love the turtles. 

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And I think Mattox loved them too.  He had an up close and personal encounter. 

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Brody and Evan both loved this alligator...well, the dead one anyway.  Haha!

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And I just love these hermit crabs.  They were the cutest!

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Evan was trying so hard to be brave and touch a stingray.  They were also swimming by really fast in the touch tank. 

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Mattox loved the big fish tank with sharks in it. 

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We watched the divers give a show from inside the tank.  

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Mattox enjoyed crawling around and cuddling with big brother during the show. 

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Then, they went up to "meet" a diver.  Brody gave him high fives. 

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Big brother dressed like an octopus to entertain baby brother in the play area.  Mattox got to ride a whale, a seal, and a fish.  Brody was too busy running around terrorizing the younger kids. 

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The jellyfish looked pretty in their tank. 

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Yikes!  Megalodon ate us!  Evan always loves when they do shows about this supposedly massive prehistoric shark during Shark Week.  

After spending a few hours exploring the aquarium, we headed to the opposite end of the island on the other side of Atlantic Beach to explore Fort Macon.  I knew Evan would love seeing this "real fort."  It is a brick and stone fort set at the mouth of an inlet during the early 1800s when the federal government was building many forts along the coast of the southeast.  It didn't actually see any real combat during the Civil War because it isn't located in an area that was as critical to the South's shipping needs.  Fort Fisher saw more action during the War because of its critical location defending the entrance to the port at Wilmington. Still, Fort Macon is more fun to see because of it looking more like a real fortress with high walls and battlements and housing quarters for the soldiers.  We also got lucky and just happened to visit on the one day a week when they shoot off the evening gun. We arrived only about 20 minutes before the scheduled shooting of the cannon so we timed it pretty perfectly.  Evan loved it even if it wasn't a real charge.

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So yes, technically there was a battle for Fort Macon in which the Confederates took it, but I promise it wasn't much of a fight.  There were very few soldiers stationed here, and they surrendered with little to no resistance.  Apparently, the U.S. Coast Guard and Homeland Security do currently operate a base nearby. 

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The boys at the entrance to the fort. 

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We immediately found a spot in the crowd to watch the cannon fire show, but we had about 10 minutes to wait so the boys went off exploring.  They went inside the first room they came to and then disappeared through a doorway into the next space.  The next time I saw them, they were coming out on the opposite side of the fort.  Crazy kids!  They are the two little figures in red coming out of the big opening across the grassy space. 

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The kitchen area was furnished to show how it looked when the fort was operating.  It showed that the soldiers here ate pretty well since it wasn't really war time.  They got a good size portion of meat and bread with other options like beans and vegetables. 

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Then, the boys ran off again and climbed the stairs to the top of the fortress.  I was a little anxious when I looked up and saw them at the edge of this tall wall surrounding the courtyard area. 

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They came back down to watch the firing of the cannon.  

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We walked through the fort's interior rooms together and saw the big brick oven where all of the bread was baked.  

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Evan again braved the heights and walked around the outer walls of the fort.  I am surprised more accidents don't occur here with no railings to prevent falling off the sides. 

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We learned about the construction of the fort and others like it along the coastal areas of the southern U.S.

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We saw the bunks where the soldiers slept, and the officers' quarters.  Evan tried to pick up this heavy cannon miniball. 

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Boys love cannons and guns.  Haha!

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Then, we all wanted one more peek at the ocean before we headed back to New Bern.  The water was so calm and peaceful here.  

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I took Mattox's pants off so he could play in the sand.  

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But he was not content with sitting still and headed into the water.  I kept pulling him back over and over.  Finally, our day ended when a slightly larger wave knocked him over, and we both got soaked pulling him out of the water.  We had to head back to New Bern to clean up and meet Daddy and the teachers for dinner that night.   


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