As we celebrate this Memorial Day, I want to tell everyone about how my family spent last Memorial Day weekend. That year the summer buzz word was “Stay-Cation”. We were saving up for another trip so our plans to enjoy the long weekend had to be close to home. The plans ended up very close to home because I decided to plan our own first ever “stay-cation”. If you haven’t come across this phrase it refers to when you create a vacation atmosphere but remain at home. “We are going to have a stay-cation!”, I told my family. They were not really excited until I assured them this would be a fun weekend not 4 days stuck at home. Then I began planning. I based our plans around two factors.
- We would have 3 days to fill.
- I did not want to spend the weekend cooking and cleaning.
After looking in to how much we could afford to spend during our stay-cation I found a combination of free local activities and some paid for adventures. For anyone planning a stay-cation, remember that just because your vacation is a “stay-cation” that doesn’t mean you can’t get out. With a little research you can find several local options either free or low cost that will get your crew out of the house. Below is a break down of how we spent our long weekend at home.
Day One: Screaming Eagles Zip Line Tour
My family has wanted to do a zip line tour for some time. So when I found that there was a tour in Guntersville, AL., Screaming Eagle Zip Line Tours, which is just a little over an hour from our house, it had to happen. My oldest daughter had to work so the youngest brought a friend. The kids had a half day of school that day, which meant we could make it for the last tour of the day at 3:30 PM.
As we drove up clouds began moving toward us and I spent the drive praying the weather would just hold out until we’d had our fun. It did and I’m so glad we chose to do this. The Screaming Eagles Zipline Tour is not hard to find. Just drive up to Monto Santo Lodge and there are signs leading you to the lobby where the desk for arrivals is located. We arrived early, because I always plan with the “delayed” factor in mind, so we wandered around the lodge a bit. As a bonus we were able to see a bride and groom make their grand exit amid bubbles and cheers!
The guides gave us a quick run through of gear and safety rules then we were off. It was so much fun to zip through the tree line! While the guides made the trip fun it was clear they were well trained and their number one concern was our safety. Each section had a different feature. On the way home we discussed which was our favorite. Zoe and I liked the “turtle” which was so long you had to curl your legs up toward your chest to make sure you didn’t stop moving and get stuck in the middle. Michael and Livvy liked the section that went over a road because you could wave at people going by.
There are two different tours to chose from. We did the Level 1 Canopy Tour. The Level 2 Canopy Tour offers 7 more zip lines which are higher and longer for a price increase of $30 per person. I would suggest people or groups ages 14 and older do the level 2 tour if you can. The level one was great but I know our group would have loved the extra height and length of the level 2 zip lines.
Day Two: Kayaking on Lake Gunterville
For our second day of stay-cation I planned a kayaking tour with a local company. We have kayaked a lot since this time last year but at the time our kayaking experience was limited to say the least. Since we had two paddle boards and two kayaks the tour only needed to provide one extra kayak for my son who was driving up for the day (this cut our cost a bit too). Again my oldest daughter had to work so Livvy brought a friend. The five of us were to meet the guide at a put in point at 7 AM for which he had sent me directions. We arrived and waited while it started to rain. Just a sprinkle but I sat in the car worrying because our guide had not shown up yet. Did he cancel because of the rain? I had no signal on my phone so we just sat for about 20 minuets wondering. Eventually we decided to drive up the road a bit to find a signal and see if perhaps we had stopped at the wrong location. After frantic texting and calling the guide finally called me saying “didn’t you get my email?” “Obviously not” is what I wanted to say. I was out in the rain with my family who I had promised a great day of kayaking with no guide and short one kayak. The guide had twisted his angle the day before and sent an email to cancel but when copying/pasting my email address he had left off a letter, so I did not get it. Really, I would not have gotten it anyway because I had not checked my email. He did refund our money and offered a discount if we wanted to go out another time. We did not.
What to do now? My son, not willing to give up a day on the water, pulled over and asked some fishermen if there were any places to rent a kayak nearby. The Town Creek Fishing Center was just down the road. We rented an extra kayak for 4 hours ($35) and headed out on our own. We had so much fun! While exploring the area we found an island, now named bird island, because it was covered with evidence of the name sake. We also found a cliff with a rope swing (too temping to pass up). Even though it was cloudy and the misty rain never really went away, the weather was warm and we had a great time. After our 4 hours on the water we changed clothes in the Fishing Center Bathroom and went to find lunch.
There is nothing like time on the water to wear you out. When we arrived home everyone promptly found a place to curl up and nap. For the next three hours it looked like Maleficent had cast a spell on my house.
Day Three: Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic
This event is one I was very excited about. The Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic is held every year in Decatur, Alabama. Even though it is only about 25 minutes from us I had never been able to go in the three years we had lived here. There is something magical about hot air balloons that surpasses the science of it.
The balloon race starts early, and I had read that showing up even earlier is vital to getting a good spot to park and also to see the balloons inflate. This time it was only a group of three. Not many were willing to get up at 5 AM in order to be there to see the set up of balloons. Michael, Livvy, and I headed out with chairs, snacks, and cameras. Livvy and I planned to enter some of our photos in a contest for the event. Best photos would be put into a calendar about the festival. Parking was easy to find, and arriving early was not a mistake. However, rain from the day before had left the grass soaked and large puddles were every where on the field. We found a good a spot and set up. Livvy and I spent the next two hours taking photos as crews set laid out the massive balloons and began inflating them. Before this I did not know that each balloon has a name, such as High Jinx, Dream Weaver, or Bandit. Watching the colorful orbs lift off and sail away was amazing. Afterward we three walked around doing a tour of the stalls offering everything from bratwurst to dresses. Michael and I were prepared for the lack of vegan food (we brought snacks) so we had a yummy fresh lemonade while Livvy had funnel cake. By noon we were tired (up at 5 AM) so it was agreed that heading home would be good. The plan was to return later to see the “glow”. This is when the balloons inflate at night and are “glowing”. However, when the time came to head out we were enjoying other things so decided to pass on returning. I’m glad we went though and I want to go back another year.
Everyone enjoyed our stay-cation so I declare it a success. There were moments where it was a matter of perseverance and attitude that made the difference but I would do it again. When not on our adventures we relaxed at the house playing games, watching movies, making cocktails, and grilling. Read my post 5 Tips On How to Plan A Stay-Cation before planning your own!