We're back from the mountains of this gorgeous state with one incredibly happy toddler and one incredibly happy 6 year old niece. And it's all thanks to the wild west theme park Tweetsie out in Blowing Rock.
My son loves "choo-choo" trains. He plays with them all the time (hence the Train Table Roll Call post), reads about them, sings about them, and talks about them. Yet he had never been on one. So when we were headed for a family mini-vacation we decided to give Tweetsie a drop in.
I admit that when we first arrived at Tweetsie my first thought was "royal mistake." You see, you can't see much of it from the road and entry gate. And then you get a map and it still looks tiny. I was concerned as to how we were going to fill a full day there with 2 kids.
Never fear. It was no problem at all.
First, the train ride was fantastic and we did that 3 times (and could have done more). Some things to know about the train: it is a show as well as a ride. We caught the first train of the day and were entertained with a full act at the depot. This did not happen on later rides. Then, as you go along on the train, there are a few stops for shoot outs between cowboys and shoot outs between cowboys and Indians. These kept my 2 year old entertained, but the 5-8 year olds really loved the drama. Although note that since these involve "shoot outs" with guns shooting blanks, it is really, really loud. Best to sit in the last car if your child is noise-sensitive.
Also an insider's tip: most of the show takes place on the right side of the train. So grab seats on that side if you can.
By the way, this is a real, live steam engine. Accordingly, it runs on coal and cinders do fly out of the stack. Wear sunglasses and hats or, again, sit further back. In the front cars you are more prone to the ashes and particles getting in your face.
Okay, so that's the totally awesome and kid-entrancing train. But there is a lot more to Tweetsie. Tweetsie also has a couple of different areas of entertainment. At the bottom is the town. This is the area with shops and restaurants, all with a wild west theme. Further up the hill is the County Fair area. And, as the name suggests, is full of County Fair rides: a ferris wheel, merry-go-round, tilt-a-whirl, a vertical drop, one of those rides that turns really fast and sucks you up against the wall, Go-Karts, and then a little kiddie airplane ride.
If you hit the miner's chairs and go up the mountain to the top, there are more things to do here. There are 2 kiddie rides (C was a huge fan of the boat one), a kiddie train to ride, as well as a twister/scrambler ride. And also in this area is a spot for kids and adults to mine for gems. Caution: this costs extra. The water and sifters are there, but in order to get the goods to sift through, you have to go to the pavilion and pay a minimum $8. Albeit it is a lot of stuff and all the gems you get out you get to take home. Of course, my niece was quickly overwhelmed by the amount of sifting to be done and my brother-in-law had to finish it up. He did a great job, though, taking home quite a few little rocks. (Authenticity and quality not confirmed.)
Also at the top here was a great little petting zoo. We were shocked as this is so inappropriately named as the "Deer Park." There were emus, miniature horses, pygymy goats, big goats, pot bellied pigs, llamas, bunnies and, eventually, fallow deer here to feed. You can buy an ice cream cone of food for the animals for fifty cents, and it is well worth it. This was such a hidden highlight of the park for us, and both kids just adored it.
All throughout the park are shows of varying quality. Additionally, there is food throughout the park for purchase (no adult beverages, though, parents), and the barbecue actually wasn't bad!
The price point wasn't terrible either at $34 ages 13 & up, $22 for kids 3 - 13, kids 2 & under free (AAA members get discounts). Also, you can leave the park and come back if you get a hand stamp. We ended up taking C a few miles back to the cabin for afternoon nap then coming back. Worked out grandly. Also, if you come to the park at 3pm or later, your entry is good for the entire next day, too.
There were children all over the park, too, dressed in cowboy gear and my niece has now decided she wants to be a can-can dancer. Honestly, this was a really fun experience in the NC mountains for us. And C still talks about the choo-choo Tweetsie....
Like I said, I had my doubts going in but both kids we were with were enthralled and pleased beyond belief all day. For us parents, this was way better than a Disney trip. The park is small, negotiable, family friendly (bring your strollers, they have parking and transportation for them wherever you go), and really just not stressful. As parents we weren't as into the entertainment and rides, but we really did appreciate how fantastically easy this was for us.
300 Tweetsie Lane
Blowing Rock, NC