Several weeks ago, I read online that the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores was hosting four African penguins all summer (on a "summer vacation" from Six Flags in California). Matt loves penguins and their waddles, so I thought it would be fun to take the 3 hour drive to the beach to catch up with some tuxedo-ed feathered friends.
As things typically go when I plan a little trip, the more I dug in and got excited about a weekend away, the more involved our trip got. I stumbled upon a place to stay just a few miles from the aquarium - a 60s mod beach side hotel called the Atlantis Lodge. The Lodge was built in a very 1960s architectural style by people who were searching unsuccessfully for a pet-friendly hotel at the beach. The hotel is still going strong these days, and has really embraced its 1960s lineage. The rooms have been upgraded and are modern, but are decorated in a mod 60s style. They don't use a computer booking system - everything is still done over the telephone with reservations kept in a ledger on the desk.
I would say of the people that were staying at the Lodge when we were there, 50% had dogs with them. The hotel provides doggie treats rather than chocolates on your pillow, sheets for those whose dogs sleep on the bed or couch, and there are scoops and bag stations on the property. Pine Knoll Shores allows dogs on the beach, so Otis had an awesome time playing in the sand and water!
Our room had two queen sized beds and a pull out couch (with 60s era wood paneled room dividers between each). It had a large closet/storage area and a small kitchen and table. We were able to eat breakfast and lunch in the room each day. And the best part is that each room in the Lodge is oceanfront. So we kept the sliding door open all the time and heard/looked at the ocean every chance we got. I think we'd all happily go back there again. Especially Otis!
We spent a long morning at the aquarium, though I will tell you that we were disappointed with the penguin exhibit! Thankfully the rest of the aquarium was awesome. Luke and Matt (and Nate!) got a kick out of the otters and everyone except Matt really enjoyed watching two divers spend some time in a huge 300,000 gallon shark tank.
We've only ever taken Will to an aquarium once before, and he didn't have a great time. As with most things, we're never totally sure what it is that bugs him... but the ideas that we have thrown around are the darkness (because of his CVI, it could be difficult for him to see anything) or the fact that it is a new experience and Will just doesn't really like new experiences. We came a bit more prepared this time, so Will had his iPad and some snacks for any particularly cranky moments. He really enjoyed the outdoor boardwalk at the aquarium and watching the jellyfish tank.
There are two other aquariums in North Carolina... they're all a little bit farther from our house. I'm always looking for excuses to explore more of our state! Maybe we can find some other hotels as cool and unique at the Atlantis.
Note to self: When preparing Will's applesauce and Carbatrol (seizure medication) each morning, the counter tops at hotels are not as tall as those at home! Little hands (such as those belonging to Matthew) can reach that bowl, and know where the forks are. When you turn your back (even if just for a moment!), that little boy is quick to load his face (and thankfully, the front of his shirt) with Carbatrol and applesauce. Hence yesterday's comment about calling Poison Control. Thankfully the dosage that Matt got was small and within the therapeutic levels for his size. No trip to the hospital necessary, and no side effects. Doesn't stop a little bit of mama guilt though.