First Landing State Park | Summer Has Officially Begun

first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state parkfirst landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state parkfirst landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park first landing state park

We made it to the beach last weekend just in time to enjoy a heat wave of 90+ degree weather.  We were caught in Friday DC traffic on the way out and arrived just after sundown, though still way earlier than anticipated. With the help of Sly’s brother, and with Kelly and I standing around watching the boys work, we had our massive tent set up in no time. Previous plans of Tautog’s and campfires were quickly nixed in favor of late night strip mall sushi somewhere in a remote part Virginia Beach.

The next morning we were awoken by excited whispers and two sweet little faces straining to peer into our tent.  I’m not sure if our nephews were more excited to see us or more excited to eat the chocolate chip banana nut muffins I made and brought for breakfast (a variation of this recipe can be found here — I added 1/2 cup of carob chips and 1/2 cup of organic bittersweet chocolate chips in place of 1 cup of blueberries and left about 1/2 a banana chunky to give the muffins texture). Sly and I drove to the nearest Starbucks — the nicest Starbucks I have ever seen btw, like something you would see in Miami Beach — and picked up some caffeine to get us through the day.

The best thing about First Landing State Park was how close the campsites were to the beach. A short path from our campground led right to the boardwalk which led right to a relatively private beach. We set up our old rinky dink drugstore umbrella that flips inside-out every single time we use it, shook out our wolf and tiger beach towels (bought when we visited here last year), and hooked up Sly’s phone to our portable Bose speakers.  Summer had finally arrived.

We spent all day at the beach playing with the nephews, taking a break to grab lunch at Virginia Beach (fish tacos in a dark, smoky tiki bar just off the main strip) where we also watched what we could see of an airshow. After lunch the nephews napped in the car while I set up my hammock in the wooded area behind our tents and fell asleep rocking gently in the sticky warm breeze. Once everyone awoke from afternoon naps we went back at the beach, which was now about a million times hotter than when we went in the morning. Everyone ended up in the water, paddling around on our boogie boards, making up silly water games and just generally trying to keep cool.

Some memorable moments of our nephews on this trip:

  • We tossed a shovel into the water and told Samuel to fetch it like a dog. He ran after the shovel, retrieved it, put it in his mouth, then ran back and dropped it at our feet. He could play this game forever.
  • Samuel was Sly’s mini me — no matter what Sly was doing, Samuel wanted to help. He was a very good helper.
  • Elijah loves “yummy schimp (shrimp)” and of course homemade ice cream. We let Eli taste a bit of the ice cream before it had fully set and after he finished licking the spoon, he started crying because he wanted more. Eli has started talking more and more, saying more complicated words. He’s a little parrot these days, copying everything we say, internalizing it, then surprising us by repeating the words at a later time.
  • Just likeour last camping trip together, Samuel loved helping me drop off the recycling in the huge recycling dumpsters. I’m not sure if I want that to be “our thing,” but it’s pretty cute how excited he became when I told him we were going to recycle. It was all he talked about for at least 45 minutes.  While dropping off the cans, etc., Samuel asked me if someone was hiding in the dumpster. I immediately said ‘no,’ but then started to second-guess myself and slowly peered in to be sure. Can you imagine?
  • When Samuel was asked, “what happens when there’s a chemical spill on the road?” he would reply “a hazmat truck comes to clean it up.” Where does he learn this stuff?
  • Samuel was really disturbed by the thought of eating the live crabs (even though he ate crab  nachos the night before). He told us a million times, sometimes angrily and with a scrunched face, that he would not eat those crabs! In particular, he was concerned about what happened to the crab’s eyes when they cooked.
  • Whenever we camp with Samuel, he makes it a point to tell us multiple times how much fun he’s having and to thank us for going camping with him. This was the first trip where Sam cried when we left to go home. Poor little guy. We quickly comforted him by telling him that we would have him over to ride bikes, play legos and go to the Red Mango near our home (something he has not forgotten about since we first told him there was a Red Mango near us).

Sly and I bought some Maryland blue crabs at Dockside fish market and cooked up a crab boil with corn, turkey sausage, shrimp and potatoes. For dessert we made homemade ice cream using a play and freeze ice cream ball ice cream maker that we were all skeptical of — how could three simple ingredients make ice cream in a plastic ball? Not only did the hamster ball make the ice cream, it made the best ice cream we have ever had (recipe below). Our minds were blown. It was as if ice cream as we knew it was a lie. THIS was the REAL stuff. Yet…how could it be so easy??? WHY HAD IT TAKEN US SO LONG TO UNLOCK THE SECRET OF ICE CREAM?

While the grown-ups tried to wrap their heads around this conundrum, the nephews quietly gobbled up their ice cream and followed it with two tiny s’more (because it wouldn’t be camping without s’mores). With the nephews getting ready for bed, Sly and I snuck off and spent the last bits of the day sitting on the boardwalk bridge watching a beautiful sunset together.

Ice Cream Ball Camping Recipe (aka easiest ice cream recipe ever)

1 quart of cream
1 TBSP vanilla
3/4 cup of sugar

Also needed:
rock salt


  • Fill the outer part of the ice cream maker ball with as much ice as possible, then add 1 cup of rock salt. Secure the lid.
  • Fill the inner part of the ice cream maker ball (the metal part) with the ingredients listed above. Close the lid. Shake and roll the ball around for about 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, open the metal part of the ice cream ball to stir the mixture (it should have started the freezing process by now). Scrape the sides and mix with the liquid parts of the cream mixture. Close the lid.
  • Open the out part of the ball and drain out the melted water, adding more ice and an additional 1/3 cup of rock salt
  • Continue rocking and rolling the ice cream ball until you notice the ice cream solidifying — about 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Gently scoop out the mixture using a wooden or plastic spoon. Makes about 1 quart.

Note:  The ice cream ball gets really heavy once loaded up with ingredients, so I don’t imagine actually tossing the ball around, especially with little kids. We sat in a circle in our tent and rolled the ball around and then Sly and I eventually ended up just rolling/passing it across the table quite vigorously in order to agitate the ice cream mixture. It was extremely hot outside and the ice melted quickly, but despite this, the ice cream did result in real ice cream. About a cup of the ice cream was soupy, more like a milkshake mixture (if we had more ice or if it had not been too hot, it might have turned out differently) but the rest of the ice cream was solid, creamy and so delicious. It does not make a lot of ice cream but because the ice cream was so rich it was more than enough for 4 adults and 2 kids.


Last year’s trip to First Landing State Park here.

You Might Also Like

  • young soo
    June 10, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Excellent description and diary of any family beach camping trip I had ever read! I really enjoyed reading it!!

  • Kevin
    June 10, 2013 at 10:37 am

    It’s nice that he worried about the eyes.