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Brunswick County offers no-fuss family fun

“Mommy, I wanna do somethin’ fun. We never do anything fun.”

My son utters these words every weekend. It never fails that when I am attempting to get caught up on my housework, he gets bored and accuses us of being “the most boring family ever.”

I just can’t help it. There’s so much to do. I know it’s probably not the most exciting thing to watch me vacuum a whole house, scrub a tub and toilet, wash and fold six loads of clothes and do a sink full of dishes, but the stuff has to be done. And I always tell him if he’s really bored, he can always help. It’s funny that no matter how bored he is, he’s never that bored.

When my son started his usual whining about his boredom last Saturday afternoon, I decided he was right; we are the most boring family in the world. So, I decided to do something about it. I loaded my son and his penny-pinching, reluctant dad, Marc, into the car and headed for Wilmington.

After grabbing some dinner, I decided that we should take a walk on the Boardwalk at Carolina Beach. To my surprise, my family agreed. The three of us set out for an adventure. Marc grew up in Southport, and had visited Carolina Beach as a child. In fact, he used to catch the Southport ferry on his bicycle and ride around Carolina Beach, but he had never taken a stroll down the Carolina Beach Boardwalk.

As we headed toward the beach, he mentioned that Britts Donuts had helped secure the boardwalk a top ranking for food offerings.

As we got closer, traffic became very heavy, and Marc grew increasingly alarmed at the distance at which I followed the other cars. His incessant nagging made me all too happy to pull over and let him drive.

Once behind the wheel, he expertly guided us through traffic to a parking lot that I would have found if he had given me a little more time.

Before I had a chance to unbuckle, my son had jumped out of his car seat, clamored to the front of the car and was standing on my lap and opening the passenger side door.

“Whoa! Mommy! Daddy! Look at all those rides!” he screamed, his voice reaching decibels that I didn’t know were humanly possible.

As I jumped out of the car and grabbed his hand, I quickly became aware of the smell. It didn’t smell like the salty breezes blowing off the marshes. It smelled somewhat like garbage with faint notes of Porta-John and a hint of cigarette smoke.

I was about to say something about the smell, but Marc had already fixated on the parking meter.

“You have to pay to park!” he shouted. “It’s $1.50 an hour, or $8 for a whole day! How long are we planning to stay?”

My son had immediately fixated on what I believed to be the most dangerous-looking ride at the place, the “Ring of fire.”

“No more than 30 minutes,” I told Marc, and he put 75-cents in the meter.

“I wanna ride that one, daddy,” my son screamed, pointing at the Ring of Fire.

It was basically a tiny roller coaster that traveled in a complete circle, with the passengers upside down at the top.

Marc said, “Well, OK, but let’s just watch it first.”

When he saw the look on my face, he whispered, “Just let him watch it one time. I promise, he won’t want to go up there anymore.”

I consented and fought the urge to drag Levi back to the car kicking and screaming.

The ride started and at first, Levi was clapping his little hands, and I thought I was going to have carry out a plan of trickery with a cotton candy diversion to get him back to the car without a fuss.

But I needn’t have worried. As soon as the ride made it’s first complete circle, he grabbed his dad’s leg and held on tight. His eyes grew wide as he watched it stop at the top, and he looked up at me.

The ride did several more loops before coming to a stop.

“Hey, that looks fun. Are you ready to ride it now?” Marc said looking down at the child who had now wrapped both arms around his leg and was holding on for dear life. He was violently shaking his head “no.”

We cruised through the park quickly, and made our way to the boardwalk, where we paused a few moments to look at the moon—the super moon.

The moon was nice, but it was hard to enjoy the peaceful night with the bright lights of the rides and carnival games beckoning to our five-year-old son. Marc eased him through the park toward Britt’s Donuts, dodging every $4.50 ride and game along the way.

He then spotted a line that started three stores down, and said, “That must be Britt’s.”

Needless to say, we didn’t stick around. We made our way back to the car and headed for home.

While it’s good to get out, we spent the drive home wondering why we didn’t just stay in Brunswick County. When we want to go an amusement park, we can take a trip to Car-o-winds or Busch Gardens. But when we’re looking to have a day of family fun, we don’t have to look any farther than our own coastal towns and beaches. They offer so much more than a commercial diversion. Here we have miles upon miles of beautiful beaches with unspoiled views where families and friends can create memories that will last longer than the joy one gets from a bag of day-old cotton candy.

If I want to walk and enjoy the views while I shop, I can stroll through downtown Southport. If I want to enjoy a day where I don’t have to guide a squealing child through a maze of money-sucking carnival rides and feed my hard-earned money into a parking meter, I can just stay right here in Brunswick County—the place I’m lucky enough to call home.