Whitewater Rafting Fun on the Chattahoochee

If you are looking for a fun adventure, look no further than a whitewater rafting trip down the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia!

whitewater rafting

It’s been a crazy year, and we were looking for a last minute adventure before school started. We finally settled on taking our boys, ages 14 and 9, on their first whitewater rafting trip! It’s been years since I rafted down the Ocoee River in Tennessee, and I had no idea that there was a world class rafting course on the Chattahoochee River in Columbus, Georgia!

Whitewater Express in Columbus offers 3 levels of whitewater rafting fun:

  • Classic Trip – 2 hours – minimum age of 7
  • Challenge Trip – 2.5 hours – minimum age of 12
  • Carnage Trip – 2.5 hours – minimum age of 12
whitewater rafting

Family Friendly Fun

We selected the Classic Trip with Whitewater Express – Chattahoochee. Our family had such a great time. The RushSouth Whitewater Park on the Chattahoochee River is the longest urban whitewater rafting in the world! Our guide explained to us that when the developers were planning the course, they looked very carefully at the layout of the rocks and boulders that were already in the Chattahoochee River. They added some boulders and moved the location of others. This created a course that is easy enough for beginners, but challenging enough for experts. The result was exciting and fun rapids, even for beginners. Trips range from $39.95 to $74.95, and group rates are available, and military discounts are available.

From visitcolumbusga.com, “This course consists of over 5 class 4+ rapids and 10 smaller rapids. It’s one of the most exciting whitewater rafting rivers in the US! The biggest distinction between this river and other rivers is the volume of water which will be in the river when it is rafted. For comparison, the rapids on the Ocoee River can reach up to 1,100 cubic feet per second in volume, while the rapids at the Chattahoochee can reach up to 13,000 cubic feet per second in volume. This makes the rapids the largest south of Canada and east of the Chattahoochee!”

Getting Started

I purchased our tickets online a few days prior to our rafting trip. The Classic Course trips are taking in the morning, and the more challenging course trips are taken in the afternoon. This is because more water is released by the dam throughout the day, which increases the intensity level. Our trip was scheduled to begin at 10:00, and we were instructed to arrive 30 min prior to fill out paperwork. This paperwork is whitewater release forms as well as a Covid-19 waiver. There are lockers available in the restrooms, but we left our belongings in the car and put our keys in the storage bin.

After filling out everything, we were taken into the supply room and suited up with life jackets, helmets and given our paddles. Make sure to look for the aquarium that stores all the cool things they’ve found in the river, including giant shark teeth, tons of cell phones and even a grimy macbook!

We met our guide, Harris, and hopped in the transport van to take us to the drop off point. Harris gave us our safety spiel, and we were on our way.

Bonus tip: Be prepared to get VERY wet. We wore swimsuits and t-shirts. Shoes with a strap on the back, water shoes, or tennis shoes are required. Flip flops and sunglasses will get lost! I left my phone in the car because I was more afraid of losing it than I was of missing out on pictures.

whitewater rafting

Let’s get this party started!

If you’ve been rafting on most whitewater trips, the water tends to be very chilly. Not so for this time of year for the Chattahoochee. If you are traveling during cooler months, wet suits are available. The water felt amazing on our trip. We hoped in the raft and Harris showed us the proper way to hold our paddles, and we were off! My oldest son was super excited about our adventure, but my younger son was slightly hesitant. Good thing we just jumped right in, braving one of the bigger rapids on the classic course!

family adventure

Unique Whitewater Rafting Fun

Rafting on the Chattahoochee River was very different from other rafting trips I’ve taken. For first, the water temperature was much more comfortable. Secondly, there were solid “breaks” in the action, so we were really able to take in the scenery and look for wildlife. I was much younger when I rafted on the Ocoee, and I think I really enjoyed calmer side of the Chattahoochee. There is enough adventure to keep it exciting, but enough calmness to be enjoyable.

whitewater rafting

Rafters on the classic course are able to jump in on a slower section of the river and enjoy a lazy river float. Make sure you keep you feet forward and stay floating on your back; those boulders and rocks can be hiding under the water! We thoroughly enjoyed floating down the river and looking for wildlife on the banks.

whitewater rafting

Listen to your Guide and Smile!!

After our float, we were back in the raft and ready for our next few rapids. Make sure to listen carefully to your guide, because it is their ultimate goal for you to be safe while having fun. The more rapids we went through the more comfortable our younger son became. By the end of the trip, he was begging to go again. Our guide, Harris, was extremely skilled in whitewater rafting, and was super engaging and entertaining. During our 2 hours with him we had a blast! Just before the end of the trip at one of the larger rapids, your guide will point out a photographer ready to take some action shots of your crew. You can purchase these for $24.95, and receive all of them. Definitely worth every penny for us to be able to have a permanent reminder of such a fun trip.

Let’s Wrap it Up!

After your raft trip you exit the river and then begin a short walk back to the store front to return your gear. There are clean bathrooms for you to get changed before you head home, as well as a very nice gift shop to browse. Please remember to tip your guide for doing a great job. I promise you they work hard to keep you safe!

Summer fun

If you are looking for a fun adventure, I would definitely recommend a whitewater rafting trip down the Chattahoochee River. We are already planning a trip back for one of the more challenging courses. This trip was the perfect end to our summer, and absolutely something we won’t forget!

Liked this adventure and looking for more Alabama adventures and fun? Be sure to check out my time spelunking in Alabama’s DeSoto Caverns!

DeSoto Caverns: An Alabama Gem

DeSoto Caverns: An Alabama Gem

If you are looking for something fun and different to do for the last part of summer, head over to Childersburg, AL and spend a day exploring DeSoto Caverns. Childersburg is about 37 miles from Birmingham, and the park and grounds are currently open Thursdays through Mondays from 10:00 – 5:00. I took my two sons to the park and we had a great day exploring.

About the Caverns

DeSoto Caverns has a rich history that dates back thousands of years with Native Americans first using the caverns as a burial ground. In 1796, a letter was sent to George Washington describing the beauty of the caverns, which makes DeSoto Caverns the first recorded cave in American history. The caverns played a vital part of the Civil War when gunpowder was produced in the cavern. During prohibition times, moonshine was made there! A underground tavern was created which allowed guests to enjoy moonshine and dance the night away!

The cave has been in the Mathis family for over 100 years, and a tourist attraction since 1975. While there are attractions that have been around since my childhood in the 80’s, the Mathis family has updated attractions and brought in lots of new fun.

The grounds are well maintained, with patriotic music playing around the park. If it is hot outside, you will love the fact that the caverns are a constant 60 degrees year-round! It felt incredible in the cavern; a nice break from the heat and humidity outside.

Safety Adaptations for Covid-19

Everyone is concerned with Covid-19. To accommodate new CDC safety recommendations, Desoto Caverns has changed a few things. The first is the addition of the unlimited access wrist band. This reduces contact between people because no one has to check tickets before visiting attractions. The color of your band indicates the attractions you can choose from. The all inclusive gate ticket is $49.99 for adults and $44.99 for children from 4-11 and seniors. Children 3 and under are free. This ticket includes:

  • guided cavern tour
  • over a dozen unlimited attractions
  • craft artisan demonstrations
  • streetmosphere performances
  • strolling entertainment

You can add lunch in for a discounted price of $10.99 online, and that includes a refillable drink mug that was a life saver for us! We purchased our tickets online ahead of time and all we had to do at the ticket booth was give the attendant our name. We selected our cavern tour time and given our wrist band. Easy peasy!

Desoto Caverns has also limited the number of people on tours of the cavern to 25 people, and placed hand sanitizing stations around the park. Social distancing markers have been placed around busier locations like the gift shop, and everyone is encouraged to maintain a safe distance while on the property. Our tour guide, Nathan, did a great job pointing out safe distances were we could stand. Masks are strongly encouraged throughout the park, and with current mandates in Alabama, they need to be worn when in groups, or inside buildings. We wore our masks throughout the tour.

Cavern Tour

We opted for the 11:30 tour which gave us plenty of time to check out the park attractions before we started our tour. When it was time, our group of 25 people were led into the caverns by Nathan. He did a fantastic job providing history of the caverns, while at the same time being funny and entertaining. Your first stop inside the caverns is the Cathedral room which is as tall as a 12 story building and longer than a football field. Very impressive!

After everyone is seated on benches, the lights are turned off and you will experience total darkness for just a moment. If you have little ones, don’t worry. It’s only for a few seconds!

After total darkness you are treated to a beautiful light and water show. When the light show is complete, your tour around the cavern will begin. You will be shown the caverns in an educational and fun way. There is so much history in an ancient cavern like DeSoto, and we enjoyed every second. When you can incorporate education, beautiful scenery and humor, you know you have a winner that can entertain a wide variety of ages!

DeSoto Caverns is handicap accessible, and strollers are allowed. Because some areas are steep, if you are in a wheelchair you need to make sure someone is there to assist you.

Bonus Tip: Make sure to wear comfortable shoes with good traction. The cave has lots of drips of water and areas can be slippery!

Park Attractions

Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to explore the grounds, because there is so much to do! The unlimited tour is unlimited for everything listed below except for the guided cavern tour. You only get one of those!

  • 1 hour guided Cavern Tour*
  • Destiny Express Train ride
  • DeSoto’s Lost Trail Maze
  • Squirt Gun Lost Trail Maze
  • Gemstone Panning
  • Wacky Water Golf
  • DeSoto’s Wall Climb
  • Splash Pad
  • Happy’s Hoops
  • Crystal Find
  • Cannon Wars
  • Water Balloon Battle
  • Bow and Arrow Shoot
  • Explorer Ship

Family Friendly Fun

My family arrived at the park at 10:00 in the morning. After our cavern tour we enjoyed lunch from the gift shop. If you prefer, you can pack a picnic lunch and sit at one of the many tables set up on the grounds. There is a playground right next to the picnic tables, and a small creek kids can play in.

Throughout the day we had a blast mining for gemstones and did that 3 times! The kids loved the crystal find hut, and we left with some very large crystals.

If mazes are your thing, make sure you check out the DeSoto mazes. They are huge! We cooled off in the afternoon checking out the water gun maze. It was a hit! What kid doesn’t love shooting their mom with a water gun?

Our last hoorah before leaving the park was letting the boys have water balloon battles and playing in the splash pad.

It was the perfect way to cool off, and a great ending to a super fun day! We played hard for hours, and finally left at 3:00. We would have stayed longer if my boys had their way. This mama was hot and tired! We had a wonderful time exploring DeSoto Caverns and would definitely recommend it for a fun, family outing. Check it out if you are in the area!

Episode 82: Water Parks at Walt Disney World

Water Parks Fun

podcast


Water Parks at Walt Disney World

Why should I use a whole day at a water park when I could be in one of the major theme parks? Is it worth spending the extra money? What are the best family slides and activities? Are there thrills at the water parks as well? If you’ve wondered any of these questions, then this episode is for you! And like we promised in the episode, here’s Sarah’s blog posts about the water parks: Are they worth the extra money? & 5 things not to miss at Disney water parks


If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please let us know! And as always, for more Disney tips, tricks, tutorials, packing lists, dos and don’ts… Okay, you get the picture. We’ve got a blog! www.mouseandmonorail.com You can also find us on the following socials: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, & YouTube.

Meredith’s Favorite Disney Games

games

Disney Games

So it’s mid-July now and with school starting back in less than a month, I’m trying to squeeze in all the summer fun I can. Finding good games that your family can enjoy together can sometimes seem difficult when there’s SO many choices out there. Today I’ve got a list of my favorite Disney games. Whether you’re looking to find that perfect new board game for family game night or wondering what gaming options are available in the Disney parks, this post is for you!

games

In-Park Games 

Most people wouldn’t think too much about playing games while on vacation, especially at theme parks because they’re always rushing to their next favorite ride. In reality, there are quite a few super-fun interactive games within the parks (beyond the game-based rides like Toy Story Midway Mania and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin) that’ll keep you having fun and give you something new to try. Note: Games marked with an * require an additional fee to play. All other games listed here are included with your park admission ticket.

Walt Disney World

Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom – This one is a fav of mine and allows you to experience the park in a way you’ve never imagined, all while enjoying little to no wait lines!! Best yet, you can bring the cards home with you and play the card game while note at the parks! To play, stop by the Firehouse on Main Street to get started.

A Pirate’s Adventure – Like the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, this pirate adventure has loads of fun within the Magic Kingdom and allows you to start and stop at your leisure. You can get your own pirate adventure started by finding the kiosk located just past the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and Pirates League.

*Frontierland Shootin’ Arcade – What better way to immerse yourself in frontierland than to take your best shot at the rootin’ tootinest shooting gallery west of the castle.

Advanced Training LabLocated next to Mission:SPACE in Epcot, this interactive game area lets you “further your astronaut training and even create a space-age postcard”!

Disney Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure – Save the countries located in Epcot’s World Showcase from the evil Dr. Doofenschmirtz in this secret spy scavenger hunt. I personally loved this one as it made the countries come alive in a completely new way I had never experienced before. Don’t miss this one whether you have kids or not! You can begin your adventure at the entrance to the World Showcase or at any of the Agent P kiosks throughout the World Showcase.

ImageWorksLocated just after you take a Journey Into Imagination, you’ll find the ImageWorks “What If” labs. From conducting an orchestra to creating your own dragon, this interactive game area is perfect for little ones!

Innoventions – You’ll be surprised at how well you and your family enjoy the interactive fun within this Epcot attraction located in Future world. From getting caught in a storm or designing your own thrill ride, to learning how the colors of the rainbow brighten our world, there’s something fun to learn for everyone! You can even download the Colortopia app (iOS/android) to unlock even more fun! Find out more about Colortopia here.

Kidcot Fun Stops – While not really a game, this fun adventure is like letting your little ones take a Grand Tour (if people still did those) with Disney’s cuddly and well-traveled Duffy Bear. Just look for the Kidcot signs within the showcase pavilions.

Star Wars Launch Bay – While this stop in Disney’s Hollywood Studios isn’t just a game, you can try out the Star Wars portion of Disney Infinity here!

*Fossil Games – What roadside carnival would be complete without midway style games? These fun-for-the-kids games are located in DinoLand USA within Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Wilderness Explorers – This conservation and culture learning game lets you explore Disney’s Animal Kingdom and earn badges just like Russell from Up would! To begin your experience, stop by the Wilderness Explorers stand as you exit the Oasis. The wilderness must be explored! Ca0caw, ca-caw! ROAR! This is one of my favorites for kids as it lets them explore and enjoy the park without worrying about what ride to race to next. Don’t miss it!!

Disneyland

*Frontierland Shootin’ Exposition – Like its WDW counterpart, this shootin’ gallery features tricky targets and lights, sounds, and animations! One of the first stops in frontierland, you can’t miss this authentic-looking log cabin.

Animation Academy – While not technically a game, this instructive course allows you to learn how to draw favorite Disney characters from Mickey himself to newer characters like Agent P.

Sorcerers Workshop – While you’re at the Animation building, be sure to experience the Sorcerer’s Workshop where you can create your animations (not just drawings) as well as discover which Disney character you’re most like by answering questions with an enchanted book from beast’s library!

*Games of the Boardwalk – Styled after classic Disney and Pixar franchises, these boardwalk games are loads of fun for the family.

Redwood Creek Challenge – If hiking, climbing, and challenges are your thing then this one is perfect for you. Located in Disney’s California Adventure, you may even discover your animal spirit in the process!

Disney Cruise Line

Midship Detective Agency – You can enjoy this interactive game (very similar to the Sorcerers of the MK) aboard the Disney Dream and Fantasy cruise ships. I highly recommend for those cruising with kiddos!

Board Games

Pictopia – We got this one for Christmas and it’s super fun for the whole family. And even better, it has a companion app (iOS/android) that you can play along with the board game OR play alone when on the go!

Eye Found It! – This board game is great for families, especially those with preschoolers because it encourages your family to play as a team (you all win or you all lose) and doesn’t require participants to read in order to play. And for all you Star Wars fans, there’s even a SW edition!

Disney Hedbanz! – Guess which Disney character you are before your friends and family do and look totally stylish with the super cool Mickey ears headbands.

 

Check out all the fun Disney versions of classic board games too!

Disney Theme Park Edition III, Villains, and Disney Classics editions of Monopoly

Disney Parks, Minnie Mouse’s Sweet Treats, and Princess editions of Candyland

Inside Out and Theme Parks editions of Life

Disney Pictionary

Disney Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror editions of Clue

Finding Dory, Star Wars, and Doc McStuffins editions of Operation

HiHo! Cherry-O! with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse

Olaf’s in TROUBLE

Disney Guess Who

Disney Cranium

Frozen Jenga

Disney Wheel of Fortune

Disney Trivial Pursuit

Don’t Break the Ice: Frozen Edition

Disney Theme Park Scrabble

Video Games

Console-based (playstation, xbox, wii etc)

Disney Infinity – Available for most consoles this gaming system combines story-based gameplay with open-world creative building and makes playing with your favorite Disney characters an absolute delight.

Disney Magical World and Disney Magical World 2 (due out Oct 16 2016) Set out on your own theme park adventure with this Nintendo DS game. My kids (8 and 5) have loved this game and can’t wait for the new one to be released!

Just Dance Disney Party 2 – Jam and dance to more of your favorite Disney songs!

Playmation! – This is an interactive game for everyone. Don’t forget to download the companion app (iOS/android)!

App-based

Check out this week’s podcast to hear me chat all about these apps!

Disney Magic Kingdoms (iOS/android)

Kingdom Hearts Unchained (iOS/android)

Disney Dream Treats (iOS/android)

Disney Tsum Tsum (iOS/android) – This is the game where those adorable little stackable plushes originated!

Where’s My Mickey? (iOS/android) (definitely play the where’s my water version too!)

Inside Out Thought Bubbles (iOS/android)

For even more Disney games available as apps, check out these fun titles:

•Disneyland Explorer (iOS)

•Nemo’s Reef (iOS/android)

•Temple Run: Brave (iOS/android)

•Frozen Freefall (iOS/android)

•Disney Crossy Road (iOS/android)

•Infinity 2.0 Toybox (iOS/android)

•Star Wars: Commander Squad Wars (iOS/android)

•Castle of Illusion (iOS/android)

•Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (iOS/android)

•Disney Jigsaw (iOS)

•Marvel Avengers Academy (iOS/android)

•Marvel Puzzle Quest (iOS/android)

•Marvel Contest of Champions (iOS/android)

•DuckTales Remastered (iOS/android)

Well, if my list doesn’t keep you playing for hours, I don’t know what will! What are your favorite Disney games?