Grocery Update: Week 41, 2018

There weren’t many stops this week, but the last one was a doozy!

The first stop was on Wednesday when I went to Shaw’s for pizza supplies.  I didn’t take a picture, but I spent $53.82 on nine pizza dough balls and nine packages of pizza cheese.  After that I hopped over and spent $50.65 at Wegman’s.  I needed flour and was happy to see that it is on sale for the season again, limit 2.  You’ll therefore be seeing two almost every time through Christmas.

On Thursday I was at Stop & Shop to grab all the sale items.  Chicken thighs, English muffins, and Doritos were at their lowest ever offers.  I spent $50.13.  The only things not on sale in this picture were the milk, egg noodles, hot dogs, and hot dog buns.  The kids ate the hot dogs for dinner that night.

I was back at Wegman’s on Friday in anticipation of weekend visitors.  We spent $44.44 on a mix of things for them and things we were just out of.

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On Sunday we went to BJ’s.  I spent a final $125.84 for the week.  I don’t expect to be back at BJ’s again before Halloween.  My mother-in-law also paid for our dinner than night and a few extras, which you’ll see in the pictures too.

That brought me to $324.88 for the week!  Now, we are well stocked for a while especially for meat so my plan is to buy items to work with what we have for the foreseeable future.

 

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September 2018 Grocery Review

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Late post today as the kids have no school.  Plus, it takes a bit longer when I have to total up an entire month.

Last week first.  Sadly, I went grocery shopping almost everyday.  It really was an inefficient week.

On Monday, I ran in to Stop & Shop to grab something for an early kid dinner plus address the milk and bananas shortages.  I also took advantage of the great steak sale that was still going and picked up two more packages.  Mushrooms and ice cream were also on sale.  It all totaled $55.88.

On Tuesday I was near Target so I stopped there for grape juice, craisins, and granola bars.  I also needed one jalapeno for dinner.  They only had a bag of eight, but that was better than stopping elsewhere for one.  Now we just need to have Mexican more in the next week or so.  The total was $39.95.

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On Wednesday I needed exactly six items (two of which weren’t food so I would not normally bring them up) so I went to Stop & Shop as it is the closest to my house.  Unfortunately of those six things they only had three.  And, while looking for those six things I found two items – hot dogs and cold medicine – that were months beyond their expiration date.  All in all a disappointing experience.  As for food, I bought onions and spinach for a total of $5.00.

So I went farther (and into rush hour traffic) to Shaw’s for the rest of what I needed at $19.59.  I was rather annoyed by this and jumped right into dinner, thereby not taking pictures.

On Saturday I spent $68.04 at Wegman’s, largely to restock the milk.

My last stop this week was the farm stand.  Surprise!  I spent $20.52.  We ate the green beans for dinner last night.  The corn will go with dinner tomorrow night.  That bag of broccoli will cover 2-3 meals, depending on how many people are eating.  All of that is local.  The pears and tomatoes are not local and will be more snack-y, spread over the week.

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That brought my total to $208.98.  So, inefficient but not expensive.

And now for this week.  I looked at the categories by percentage last week; now for the totals.

September TOTAL: $1,387.48

  • Stop & Shop: $285.54
  • Wegman’s: $667.97
  • BJs: $304.19
  • Other: $129.78
    • Local: $45.25
    • Star Market/Shaw’s: $64.68
    • Trader Joe’s: $0
    • Target: $19.85
    • Other: $0

Oof.  Clearly I was making up for last month!

September 2018 Grocery Spending by Category

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So, as I mentioned yesterday, a reader asked about our spending specifically as relates to meat and produce.  I focused in on the produce part, because meat is just plain expensive in comparison.  Clearly there are more and less expensive meat choices, but in general a diet with a hefty dose of meat is going to be more expensive than a diet without.  Produce, on the other hand, offers many more choices.

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Casually, I always thought our budget was dominated by meat and dairy with produce being rather insignificant.  I spent this morning crunching the numbers for September.  That took a LONG time for what will end up being a rather short post, but I really don’t think you want all the details.

Suffice it to say I learned a few things:

  • I tend to buy certain categories of food at certain stores, which did help when totaling by category.
  • Stores sort their sales very differently so apologies in advance if these numbers don’t exactly line up with Monday’s September shopping summary.
  • Produce indeed does not dominate our budget.
  • Our budget (for September anyway, but it seemed like a normal month) was dominated equally by general grocery and meat.

So here it is:

36% General grocery (aisles + bread)
33% Meat (fresh, frozen, seafood, deli)
16% Dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese, ice cream, eggs, OJ)
9% Fresh produce
4% Prepared foods (salads + pizza dough)
2% Canned/frozen produce

Starting here because that was what kicked off this exercise.  A quick looks says maybe 1% of the prepared food number was salads, which if included with the other types of produce still only brings that total category in at 12%.

Milk and cheese dominated the dairy category; I just didn’t have a better place to put those other things.  This is to be expected.  My kids drink milk constantly, every meal plus in between.  And, we eat a lot of cheese.

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Meat is trickier.  We are a meat and potatoes family and have meat with most meals.  But, as I mentioned above, there is a lot of leeway in what types of meat one purchases and how much one serves.  My guess is that this was a higher than typical month for meat because the total dollars for the month was on the high side.  Basically, I’d guess this is the driving category as relates to budget by a couple hundred dollars a month.

General grocery is harder to analyze without breaking things down.  Bread, cereal, juice, and granola bars all fall in this category and those are often considered expensive compared to the alternatives.  But, a quick addition showed that those totaled only a quarter of this category so its not the entire story.

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All in all, this is a worthwhile exercise for anyone wanting to see where their grocery money goes.  Clearly for us the easiest category to affect is meat.  I’m not sure annoying the kids by not having some of their requested foods available in the grocery category would make nearly as dramatic a change.  And, as long as one is making conscious decisions, it is entirely ok for different people to prioritize their groceries differently.

What Produce do we Have on Hand?

A reader asked me a while back how I keep my produce budget under control.  My simple answer is that I rarely spend more than $20 on produce.  I feel like I know this because our grocery store often has coupons for extra gas points if you spend more than $15, I pay cash at the farmer’s market and often start with a $20, and I pretty much only buy produce at the farm stand so I see the total.

I feel like our biggest budget hit is dairy.  That being said, I could be wrong so tomorrow I’m going to analyze our September grocery bills by category and I’ll let you know!  Granted it will only be one month, but I have no reason to think its not a representative one.

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To more thoroughly cover the produce question, I did an audit in mid-September of what produce we had on hand.  I think when people think produce, they often think fresh produce (certainly I did with my initial response above).  But, we keep lots of canned and frozen produce around and in these modern times those can be as good, if not better than, fresh.

Fresh:

Apples – We have these year-round.  Galas starting in the fall until the grocery supplies start aging and then we switch to Red Delicious.  I might by Granny Smith or Cortland for specific fall baking.

Broccoli – I buy this in bulk, in season at the farm stand.  Currently we have enough for three meals.

Grapes – The end of a bag that was on sale.

Bananas – 14 ranging from a little green to way over ripe.  I usually buy two bunches a week as these are eaten steadily in our house.  If they do get too ripe they end up in smoothies, banana cake, or banana bread.

Ginger – A fresh bit good for one meal.  I meant to make something with this right when I bought it, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Thankfully ginger will keep for a while or I can freeze it.

Campari Tomatoes – I buy roughly one bulk pack of these per week.  The kids just eat them sliced.

Jalapeno – 1 to add a kick to some Mexican recipe.

Peaches – 2 that only I will eat.  It’s peach season so I’ve been buying a few a week.

Sweet Potatoes – One three pound bag that will be used for muffins.  They all love the muffins and they make good snack options for school.  I’m the only one who wants to eat cooked sweet potatoes in any form.

Russet Potatoes – About three pounds from a bulk bag.  These are our general purpose potatoes, but I can’t store a lot in the summer.

Shallots – I usually buy these one or two at a time.  But, I was at BJ’s when I needed them and I use them often enough that a special trip to buy fewer wasn’t warranted.  I’ll chop these up and freeze them if necessary.

White Mushrooms – We always have these, mostly for slicing and eating vs cooking.

Lemons – I needed one so I bought a bulk bag thinking I’d eventually use the others.

Onions – One.  We don’t use them much in the summer and they don’t keep.

Garlic – One and a half heads.  I don’t remember what I bought this for and have no use for the rest at present, but it will keep for a while.

Spinach – One and a half bags.  The kids eat this constantly.

Fresh Herbs – We currently have sage & thyme.  I usually use dried, but if I can string enough recipes together to justify fresh I will buy them.

Carrots – Roughly three pounds left from a bulk bag.  I always have these available.

Celery – Half a package bought for a recipe.  I don’t usually have celery around, but I can chop and freeze it if I don’t use the rest.

Miscellaneous leftovers – Three cooked ears of corn, 1/2 an heirloom tomato, and 1/2 a cucumber.

Frozen:

Peaches – One 3-lb bulk bag for smoothies.

Blueberries – Roughly four cups that I froze after we picked them.  They will be used for muffins or cobbler.

Celery – I diced up some leftover celery before it went bad.  I also left some in stick form because I ran out of time, but this has much more limited use when frozen.

Onions – I was trying out diced, frozen onions since the fresh ones don’t keep in the summer and we don’t use much.  One 1-lb bag lasted almost the entire summer.  I definitely won’t buy this in the winter when we use a lot of onions and I may just dice and freeze my own next spring.

Pearl Onions – 1 bag that goes with a specific winter recipe.

Corn – One 5-lb bulk bag that we will eat.

Strawberries – One 3-lb bulk bag for smoothies.

In the Pantry:

Dried – Dates, shredded coconut, raisins, and craisins.  These are for eating and baking.  They all keep basically forever.

Fruits – Three types of applesauce, tropical fruit cups, diced pears, diced peaches, and mandarin oranges.  The peaches, pears, and oranges I buy in bulk in single serve containers.  All of these fruit options are used for school lunches.

Tomato products – Diced tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and salsa.

Canned vegetables – Corn and peas bought in bulk.  We eat the peas, but the corn I use for cooking.

Pickles – These are mostly eaten in the summer so I don’t expect to be restocking anytime soon.

 

In summary, whether fresh, frozen, or canned I often buy in bulk.  To that end, I do find myself planning meals around what fresh produce needs to be eaten up.  Or, I break down the fresh produce and freeze it.  In any case, it is important to stay on top of what we have so as not to hoard to much unnecessarily.

The Week in Review: Weeks 38 & 39, 2018

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Fall is in full swing.  Along with school for us that means mostly soccer, swimming lessons, and some baseball.  Since both baseball and soccer practices occur in the 5:00-8:00 weekday evening window, it also brings lots of split dinners.  This coming week is particularly bad as we have something that will split us up every night.  Two weeks ago was more normal with only three evenings of activities.

  • All the boys had picture day.  It’s nice to get that out of the way early.  Thankfully it wasn’t so hot this year.  Sending them in pants just looks so much nicer than shorts.
  • Four kids had swimming lessons.
  • One child went to gymnastics.
  • Our oldest had three baseball practices and one baseball scrimmage.
  • Between four kids we had five soccer practices and four soccer games.  One soccer practice conflicts with a baseball practice so we miss that one unless it rains.  That soccer practice is on turf so it is only canceled for lightening (which we did have one week).
  • One kid went to one play date.
  • I took the Kindergartner to a birthday party.  I’m not sure who thought these kids would actually be able to paint that tree, but the whole thing went remarkably smoothly.

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The last week of September was more challenging as 5th grade math night took our Tuesday and Elementary Back to School night took Thursday.  I was at tag sale setup Friday night.  We had no weekday dinners together.

  • Four kids had swimming lessons.
  • One child went to gymnastics.
  • Our oldest had two baseball practices.  We opted for soccer this week so on the baseball practice/soccer practice day we went to soccer and on the baseball scrimmage/soccer game day we also went to soccer.
  • Between four kids we had six soccer practices and four soccer games.
  • The kids played with our neighbors.

The twin’s group tag sale was this past weekend; that occupied much of my time over the past two weeks.  I had more volume and more dollars tagged than any previous sale and much of it sold.  This week I’ll be sorting through what I got back to see if it gets saved for the next one or donated now.  Unlike previous sales there were no donation options onsite so everything that didn’t sell came home.

Here’s the first layer of the minivan packed.

And here we are all filled up and ready to go!

Since I know someone will ask – I took out all the seats except the one with a car seat installed.  Yes, taking it out would have made packing easier.  But, I’m pretty good at car tetris and removing/reinstalling a car seat is a lot more effort than removing/reinstalling backless boosters.  Plus, I needed that seat closer in time both before and after the sale.  I still haven’t put all the other seats back in!

Apparently the front seat is bad luck as most of what you can see there – tub, bouncy seat, house, and ride-on – came back.  The swing did sell.  The only other big things I see in these pictures that didn’t sell are the smallest stroller (top in halfway picture), toddler chairs (there are actually two in there), Power Wheels, gate, and learning table.  I was very happy that so many large items sold as they are harder to store.

These sales happen twice a year though, largely because of baseball and soccer, I don’t always participate.

 

Grocery Update: Week 39, 2018

I got off track last week.  Saturday was the semi-annual tag sale so I ended up devoting all my free moments towards tagging.  I got halfway through last Tuesday’s post so I’ll add to that and post tomorrow.  I’m picking up my tags today so I’ll get to see how I did.  I can say that the big stuff largely got sold so by volume I had a lot less coming home than I took.

And now for groceries.

The week started off well.  I spent $78.50 at Wegman’s on Monday.  That included six gallons of milk, plus what is pictured.

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That same trip I spent $32.45 at Shaw’s on mostly oatmeal and pizza supplies.

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Stop & Shop had many things we use regularly on sale this week so I went there on Friday, the first day of the sale cycle.  I spent $98.57.

Unfortunately the ribeyes at Stop & Shop weren’t great.  So, I moved up my Wegman’s trip to try to find some there.  I was successful (but we still prefer steaks from Stop & Shop).  The Wegman’s trip came to $170.63, but it should do us for the week with the exception of milk.  Clearly the steaks were a hefty part of this.

As of now it looks like the only night we’ll have dinner together this week is Tuesday.

Grocery Update: Week 38, 2018

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We are settling into our fall routine.  Unfortunately that means lots of split dinners.  This week, while the first full week of school, includes 5th grade math night and Back to School Night at the elementary level.  Combined with sports and a one-off event I have Friday night we will not all eat at the same time this week.  As a result you’ll see the quicker items showing up again – pizza supplies, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, etc.  I’m trying to work in some recipes like chicken pot pie that can be eaten by two separate groups, but that’s just not always possible.

My total this week was $293.24.

On Monday I spent $49.05 at Stop & Shop.  I bought four gallons of milk that were not on sale plus everything you see below that was.  Stop & Shop is not the cheapest place to buy milk, but its close enough that if I’m there for the sale stuff it makes sense to grab a few to cover until the next time I’m at the better priced locations (BJ’s or Wegman’s).

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The milk lasted until Thursday, when I ran over to Wegman’s.  I spent $110.54.  You’ll see there are a lot of bulk items in there so some of the bigger ticket items will be spread over multiple meals.  Over the weekend we used some for hamburgers and sausages.  We’ve also had meatball subs and tacos with this shopping.

Then on Friday I spent $133.65 at BJ’s.  I don’t usually go to BJ’s twice in one month, but we discovered we were very low on charcoal and it can be hard to find in the winter.  Since I knew I’d seen the bulk packages at BJ’s I went back there to stock up.

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This was all the perishable stuff.  I know I laid out the non-perishables for a picture, but clearly I got distracted and then forgot to take a picture before putting it away!

 

Washington, DC./Virginia 2018: 5 of 5, Mount Vernon

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Day 1: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Day 2: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Day 3A: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum

Day 3B: United States Botanic Garden

Day 4: Luray Caverns

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First, for those of you outside of the United States, Mount Vernon is the home of George Washington who was the first president of the United States.  It sits on a lovely hill overlooking the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C.  George Washington also owned other properties in the area, but this was the primary house where he lived and ran his various businesses.

This was a new location for us and we weren’t sure how the kids would handle the visit.  It was not as hot as it had been earlier in the week, but it was still hot and one would be spending much of the day outside.  Rain was not in the forecast, though we ended up wet from a brief shower mid-afternoon, that did serve to cool things off a bit.

The location is reasonably easily to get to and reasonably stroller friendly.  We did have to leave the stroller outside in the main house and some of the dirt paths are rather steep, but nothing that posed significant problems.

When you arrive and buy your tickets you receive a time stamp for entry into the main house.  Everything else on the property is open and available for you to explore at your leisure.  And, there is plenty.  We were there the entire day and still didn’t get to the Distillery.

We started with the upper gardens gardens, blacksmith’s shop, and spinning house.  All the gardens are still maintained, though more sparsely than they would have been.  One question I had is what happens to the food that grows there today as they did not seem to be harvesting anything.  There is a small garden oriented gift shop near the kitchen gardens, but we didn’t go in.

We then headed to the 12-acre lawn and bowling green.  These two large grassy areas in front of the house represent the view visitors would have had when they arrived.  The picture below is taken from the Bowling Green gate which separates the two lawn areas.

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Then we took our house tour.  As I mentioned the stroller needed to be left outside.  The tour was about 45 minutes, which was within the attention span of our group.  Each room had its own guide, all of whom were very knowledgeable and friendly.  You are on your feet for the entire tour with two flights of stairs.  Keep that in mind if planning a visit.  The colors are vibrant and bright, very different from the current grays one sees in houses.  Another significant difference from today is that the kitchen is separated from the house by an outdoor walkway to keep the heat and smells at a distance.

Following the house tour we went back to the museum building you enter through to eat lunch.  They have a food court and a sit-down restaurant.  We chose the sit-down restaurant which turned out to be excellent.  It is a largely modern take on traditional foods, but is very homey and kid friendly and we didn’t feel we were paying a fortune at a tourist trap.  Highly recommend eating here for any group vs another food court stop for hamburgers and french fries.

After lunch we headed back past the lawns to the lower garden, animal pastures, stables, and orchard.  These areas were less developed than the upper garden, but still offered something to see and plaques describing what things would have been like when Washington lived.

We saw the Old Tomb where Washington was first buried.  His will stipulated a new tomb be built, which happened and his body was moved there.  We visited this tomb next.  To be honest, neither tomb really had much to see.

Near the new tomb is the Slave Memorial.  As would have been normal for a man of his wealth in that time and place, Washington had a number of slaves at Mount Vernon and his other properties.  This aspect of history is discussed well throughout the property.  George Washington, and later Martha, freed their slaves upon their deaths.  The slaves were clearly a critical part of the running of the plantation.

We continued down the hill to the dock and Pioneer Farm.  Here we ran into the one re-enactor that I would have preferred not to run in to.  The sixteen sided barn was interesting, but the woman explaining it rather trapped you inside so it was impossible to step in to see it without getting stuck for a long while.  We wanted to catch the shuttle back up the hill.  Since it only comes every thirty minutes or so it was important to keep moving.  Also, this was towards the end of the day with many small kids who just weren’t up for a long talk by this point.

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On our way out we went through the museum.  All in all it was a successful day.  I hadn’t known what to expect when we started since looking at historical stuff with kids can be hit or miss.  But, there was enough interesting things, enough movement, and not too much stuffiness as to make the day run quite smoothly.

Washington, DC./Virginia 2018: 4 of 5, Luray Caverns

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Day 1: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Day 2: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Day 3A: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum

Day 3B: United States Botanic Garden

Pictures today!

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On our last trip to New York state we visited Howe Caverns.  Since the boys enjoyed that experience we decided to visit Luray Caverns this trip.  We made a full day of it and took in everything to see on property.  Luray Caverns is about two hours west of Washington, D.C.  Since we were staying to the west already, a direct route would have taken us about an hour and a half.

On our way there we did the northernmost stretch of Skyline Drive.  This added about thirty minutes to the drive.  Note that there is a fee to enter so it is both a slower and more expensive way to get to Luray from the DC area.  But, the scenery on that part of the route (between Front Royal, VA and Rt 211) was spectacular – even the boys thought so.  On the way back we decided to drive it a bit more so we took the middle section from Rt 211 to Rt 33.  This was not as spectacular and probably not worth the drive.

Upon arrival at Luray Caverns we bought our tickets and then had lunch.  The line was somewhat long and tickets are not timed, so its up to you to best judge the line for entry.  That being said, it moves pretty fast regardless.  Even more than Howe Caverns, this operation seems to be a smooth running one that’s been going for generations.  That is apparent both in what you see in the caverns as well as how things are run above ground.  One example is that they take your picture with a green screen at the entrance and you have the opportunity to purchase at the end – very theme-park like.  It’s not a negative, but it is apparent that you are not seeing a truly unblemished natural treasure.

You can bring your own food to eat onsite, just not in the caverns.  There is also a basic grill near the entrance.  We later found that there is another food option across the street at the Luray Valley Museum that might have been worth exploring more had we found it earlier.  We ate at the grill.  The food was fine, but limited, basic, and pricey for what you got.

Note: A ticket to Luray Caverns includes entry to the Car & Carriage Caravan Museum, Toy Town Junction, and the Luray Valley Museum.  I’m not even sure if you could purchase ticket to those separately.  They did check our tickets at both the car and Luray Valley museums.

After lunch we went in the adjacent Toy Town Junction.  I’m glad they don’t call this a museum.  It’s more like someone’s well-organized toy collection.  Just about everything dates from 30-50 years back, with a few popular modern items and very old things added for completeness.  But, it was a fun few minutes.

After lunch we joined the line for the caverns.  It was much shorter.  We made the second group, which was maybe a 15 minute wait.  A huge advantage for us is that strollers are allowed in the caverns.  The steps are also somewhat narrow so an umbrella stroller is probably better than a big jogger.  You do have to carry them up and down the stairs and the start/finish of the tour.  And, there are some steep hills to watch out for with strollers.  But, it makes it much easier to handle the smaller children.

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The tour itself is about 45 minutes.  It was well organized; our guide was knowledgeable and kept the group together and moving the entire time.  One is very aware of the many other tour groups moving through the caverns with you, but they rarely interrupt the experience.  There are great vistas of large caverns and smaller features.  The completely still, mirror-like water was impressive.  The tour concludes with the playing of the Stalacpipe Organ.  By this point we had a hard time keeping the small ones quiet, but clearly we weren’t the only ones with that problem.  Generally, if your group is exclusively attentive adults who want to hear everything I’d recommend staying towards the front of the group.  Drop back if you have small children who might needs space or talk a lot.  If you want to take pictures, dropping back may also be a good idea.  Just, keep up with the group as the lights are on timers and you don’t want to end up in the dark.  Also, realize that in some places the path is quite narrow and you may not be able to work back to the front for a few stops.

After our tour we headed down the hill to the car museum (and bathrooms).  I must say, after the toy “museum” the car museum was impressive.  If you are at all a car enthusiast, you should visit.  They had an excellent variety of vehicles, displayed well with descriptions, and in excellent condition.  The aisles are wide and very stroller friendly.  We (adults) could have stayed much longer, but unfortunately the boys were unable to get very interested.  Many of the cars had a tie-in to the region, but not all.

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Finally, we went across the street to the Luray Valley Museum.  As folks who have visited Sturbridge Village, there really wasn’t much to this one.  It’s not that it isn’t well done, just that it isn’t very fleshed out and comes across as an afterthought.  I don’t know if they have bigger plans for this area, but compared to the rest it underwhelms.  There’s a small museum and five exhibit buildings from 18th century life that you can look in, but not actually enter.  Again, its not bad, it just feels like it could/should be developed further.

Note: If you check their website you’ll see that they advertise a maze and rope adventure park.  If I’m honest, neither looked very big or worth the price.  More importantly, they didn’t really work for the age ranges we had in our group.  But, take a look before you go especially if you are traveling with teens/tweens.  Both are right near the entrance and you may decide that they are a good option for your family.

All in all, Luray Caverns is worth the drive.  In fact, I think doing the top portion of Skyline drive on the way is worth it.  There is plenty to do and abundant free parking.  Clearly they can handle even very busy days.  Assuming you check out all they have to offer it’s a pretty full day so doing Skyline on the way there is better as it may be getting dark when it’s time to head back east.

Washington, DC./Virginia 2018: 3 of 5 B, United States Botanic Garden

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Day 1: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center

Day 2: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Day 3A: Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum

This will be a short post, both because I apparently didn’t take pictures and because the Botanic Garden is a much smaller venue than the Air & Space Museum.

The Botanic Garden is a large green house just a few streets over from the Air & Space Museum towards the Capitol Building.  We were there about an hour on this trip, but two would probably do it more justice.

The main greenhouse is four (or more) stories tall and includes a full-scale jungle with palm trees.  There’s a path at ground level that is reasonably stroller friendly.  There’s also a catwalk about halfway up in the tree canopy, but you have to take the stairs.  Technically, there is an elevator, but the expectation seems to be that one takes the stairs.  The catwalk is narrow and would not be appropriate for a stroller.

Around this center greenhouse are a series of rooms representing other ecosystems including both wetter, dryer, hotter, and colder.  Finally, outside there are gardens.  There is a Children’s garden in a courtyard enclosed by the building.  It has tools for the kids to dig, water, rake, etc.  It also has a small structure.  Our kids could have spent more time here and there are plenty of benches for parents.

The other gardens are exterior to the building and open later hours than the building itself.  I have been to more extensive gardens, but these offer a nice seclusion to the hustle and bustle in this part of DC.  Even if you don’t go in the greenhouse, pop into the gardens instead of walking along the sidewalks.

Finally, it should be noted that the Botanic Gardens have the best bathrooms in this part of DC.  They are large, clean, and uncrowded.  They are all the way in the back through the greenhouse, but (like the gardens outside) worth the trouble if you find yourself in need while outside in the area.

I would not plan an entire day for the Botanic Gardens.  But, given its location between Air & Space and the Capitol Building, it is a worthy stop at this end of the National Mall.