Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Times in St. Clair County

We've been here in the country for almost three years now, and I SO GLAD we finally left the city life behind us!  Our transition finds us getting to know a whole different county than we were used to.  Despite the fact that I grew up in St. Clair County, I am finding myself only vaguely familiar with the area.  A lot changes in 20 years!  Not to mention, I did grow up in the city of Port Huron, not the country surrounding it.  There is a lot to explore within the city of Port Huron as well as the outlying areas.

Country life suits us, and we're working more and more, ever slowly as it may seem, toward more of a homesteading lifestyle.  With this struggling effort comes acquaintances with interesting connections and fascinating lifestyles.  We are attracted more to farm related activities; things with a slower pace and more of a family feel.

With our reentry into the homeschool circuit, I have come to know some fascinating people, made some awesome friends, and established some valuable connections.  This past year I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Great Start Parent Coalition.  Each year they publish the most awesome free resource!  The 2014 Summer Fun Guide is an invaluable publication that lists events throughout the county that are either free or have a minimal expense.  Other resources can be found within the pages as well.  I have picked out a few of my favorite to share with you:

Fort Gratiot Beach, Fort Gratiot - This is our absolute favorite beach!  There is no charge for entry or parking.  It's located just off M-25 on Metcalf Road on Lake Huron.  It is a beautiful wooded area with a nice stretch of beach.  There are picnic areas, a playground, and paved walking trails.  Whenever we go to the beach, this is where we go.

KOA Port Huron & Sawmill City - A fun little area in Wadhams that is on our list to do in the future.  The two youngest are a little short for the water slide, but we do plan to visit the putt-putt golf area this summer.  There are bumper boats, go carts, train rides, bank-shot basketball, batting cages and water wars.  You do not have to be a camper to visit Sawmill City.  This is "just down the road" from  us, and we are sure to be visiting it a lot over the years.

Powder Puff Pacas - This alpaca farm in Lenox is such a nice place.  Although, we have not been to their new location yet.  My family first discovered this farm and the lovely lady that owns it several years ago when we were still city dwellers.  Thanks to a good friend we found out about a farm tour they were doing where you traveled the area visiting the different alpaca farms.  Unfortunately, I don't believe they do the traveling tours anymore, but you can visit Powder Puff Pacas any time by appointment.  They also host an annual open house that is free of charge and open to the public.

Family Center at St. Clair County RESA - What a WONDERFUL resource for parents of young children.  There are play groups available, a host of resources, and wonderful play bins that can be checked out for FREE.  They are located right on the corner of Range Road and Smiths Creek in Marysville.

All American Flames Gymnastix - Another fun place right in our neck of the woods that is on our list to check out.  I am thinking we will pay it a visit in the super hot days of the summer, or the super cold days of the winter.  I have heard nothing but good about this indoor gym from many people.  When the weather drives us inside, but we want to be out and active this is where we plan to head.

St. Clair County Library Main Branch - Imagine my surprise when I walked into the children's area and saw the same librarian that was there when I was a kid!  There are a lot of free activities that happen at the library; this location, and all the others.  There are also wonderful puzzles, games and sitting areas to occupy children of all ages, and there is even a fishing pole section that allows you to check out poles just like books!  We plan to visit Burtchville Township and Memphis over the summer just for fun.  They're all relatively the same distance from us, so why not?

Carnegie Center - Or, as I know it, Port Huron Museum.  It's hardly changed since I was a kid, but it remains just as fascinating.  There is a whole area that changes content and displays on a regular basis.  There is a lot of fun exploring to have here, and there are various events offered throughout the year.  We just participated in a Pioneer Days field trip through our local home school group there last moth.  It was wonderful!

Huron Lightship at Pinegrove Park - I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I've toured this lightship, and it never gets old.  This current batch of children have not had the experience yet.  If not this summer, then soon.  We're sure to visit several times over the coming years.

Fort Gratiot Light Station and Gift Shop - A lot has changed around here!  The light station has been reopened after years of being closed, and there are new buildings on the property.  I haven't climbed the lighthouse since grade school.  So, that's another one to add to my list of things to do with the kids over the next couple of years.  It is so beautiful there just to visit, even if you don't do the climb, and Lighthouse Beach is right next door for a picnic or some playground fun.  Watch out for the current on the beach.  It's a strong one!

Historical Village at Goodells Park -  We frequent Goodells Park A LOT, because it literally is right in our neighborhood.  When the kids get older they will for sure be riding their bikes there all the time.  We enjoy everything on the grounds, and it's fun to look in the windows of the buildings in the Historical Village.  There is also a splash pad, playground, farm museum, butterfly garden, and a host of events that happen there throughout the year including the St. Clair County 4-H Fair.  Our newest annual tradition.

Knowlton Ice Museum - I've wanted to visit here ever since we moved to the area.  We haven't made it there yet, but we will.  It's located right in Downtown Port Huron and would be a perfect fit for a day trip.  This is on our list!

SC4 Natural Science Museum - This is a new one to me.  I didn't even know it existed!  We will be watching to see what is going on there from this point forward.  We had to miss out on the 4-H field trip to the museum this month.  It overlapped with Harmony's week at camp.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll plan a field trip there for our home school group.

Wills Sainte Claire Auto Museum - Yet another museum I was unaware of its existence.  This is on my list more for my husband than myself.  We're supposed to be doing a staycation this year, and it's within 20 minutes from our home, so why not?  The hubby and the son will surely enjoy it, and it won't be so big as to torture us females.  LOL

Pine River Nature Center - So many fun activities happen here!  It's right near Goodell's Park which is right in our neighborhood, so this is another local treasure we are sure to use countless times in the future.  Already, Harmony has taken art classes there, we've attended a really cool exotic animal petting zoo hosted by a local rescue facility, taken guided and unguided hikes on the trails, and attended a super fun Great Start even there.  Lots of fun for all ages!

Pine River Stables - Years and years ago I went horseback riding here, and one day I plan to visit here again with the kids.  All of my kids love horses, and they want to ride.  This is a nice place for those that like to ride the wooded trails.  Harmony can't wait to go!

Sanborn Nature Area - I cannot believe that I have never been to Sanborn Park, and I had no clue until this year that there was a nature area.  How crazy is that?  Our 4-H club participated in an even this past fall there, and that was the first I heard of it.  Now, I see that it is used by teachers and other organizations for nature instruction.  You know we have to check it out!

St. Clair County Parks and Recreation Trails - We live right near the train trestle on the Wadhams to Avoca Trail, and I cannot wait to visit the trestle.  I love to take pictures.  This is one outing that would make me personally happy to take on my own just so I could be free to linger and take as many photos as I like.  However, this is perfect for a family nature walk or even a couple's night out.  We have walked part of the trail, but not the trestle part.  St. Clair County also has Beards Hills Recreation Area, Bridge to Bay Trail, Woodsong Nature Area, and Columbus Township Park, our favorite sledding hill!

Sunny Fields Botanical Park - Here is another local treasure "just down the street" from us that I have intended to visit for the past two years, but I have failed to make it happen.  Like the train trestle, I would love to go here along, or with a friend that likes to linger, so I could take pictures galore.  The lilacs here reach their peak in mid-May, but they are open April through October by appointment.  I need to get around to making that appointment.

Barnes & Noble Booksellers - I love browsing a bookstore, and I love the clearance center at B&N.  In the summer they host a storytime for ages 2-5 on Fridays at 11 a.m. for FREE.  The local store has a nice children's area, too.  There are also great teacher events and other happenings throughout the year.

Blue Water YMCA - We've never taken advantage of the Y, but a lot of our home school friends participate in Home School Gym & Swim and other events that happen there.  The location is beautiful, and the building is always bustling with activity.  It's worth a look-see.

Here are a few more awesome resources:

Get Out and Play St. Clair County

Christian Home Educators of the Blue Water Area

City of Port Huron

St. Clair County

St. Clair County 4-H Fair

The Lake Bonisteel Music Association

Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce

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