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Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

Cranford, New Jersey
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Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

Hello!

My husband and I would like to bring our horse-loving daughter to Chincoteague for her birthday -- she turns 7 the day before this year's Pony Swim so it's too perfect!

We are on a budget, though, so at this point we are thinking of camping (tent, not camper). I've called each of the big three campgrounds for pricing information, but am unsure as to which to choose. I understand Tom's Cove is the closest but want to pick the one where we will have the best experience all-around. Is there anyone with specific information about the campsites, including reviews?

We also had hoped to enjoy a charter boat trip during the actual swim and spoke with a charter captain who was very helpful. I would love any input from those familiar with the swim who might be able explain how imperative the boat experience is, in the sense of getting the best swim experience for our daughter. The charter boats are not an inexpensive endeavor, so I want to be sure it's something worth doing. It can be where we decide to put the brunt of our budget, but I want to know what others think about the best way to see the swim. And, if we didn't do a charter, how and where does one recommend we watch?

Last, we would sincerely appreciate any specific tips on the absolute must-dos in Chincoteague, and any can-skips or good tips, if there are any.

We'd love this to be a real memory maker for our daughter and want to get the most out of our time there.

A sincere thanks, in advance, for taking the time to fill in the blanks of my internet research and help me pull together something memorable and enjoyable.

Best,

Gretchen

Williamsburg...
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1. Re: Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

I haven't camped or taken a charter during the swim, so I can't help with that. We have watched from Memorial Park near the pier/gazebo and also from nearer Pony Swim Lane. Our better experience was from near the gazebo - we didn't have to walk through the marsh mud, and I am short, so it seemed that I could see over the people in front better.

Definite to-dos: Visit the lighthouse on Assateague, and also the visitors and information centers on Assateague. Try the ice cream shops; my fave is Island Creamery, but they are all good. Visit the Pony Centre; your daughter could ride one of the ponies, and they have some of Misty's descendents there. The pony show is very fun to watch there, too. If it's showing while you are there, watch the movie, Misty of Chincoteague. Definitely read the book with your daughter before you come. Go to the carnival, too. Good home-town fun. See the Misty statue in the little park near downtown - it's charming!

At age 7, your daughter may or may not remember much, so take lots of pictures and talk to her about it to keep those memories alive for her. What a special birthday treat! As a horse-crazy little girl growing up in Kansas, I'd long wanted to see the pony swim, so it was a very special experience to see it for the first time, decades after I was a little girl!

Chincoteague Island
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2. Re: Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

Hi-

Yes, I would echo most of what Julia says - but if you are camping during the swim and can get into Tom's Cove, I would try for that. You would be very conveniently located for all things swim - not only the Wednesday swim, but also the return on Friday and, in addition there is a park (Memorial Park, mentioned in Julia's review above) with swings - great for a 7 year old. I have not personally camped, but you can do a search of TripAdvisor for "Chincoteague Campgrounds" and you will get lots of reviews to read and make decisions. Also, I always suggest contacting our Chamber of Commerce for advice - chincoteaguechamber.com - they are impartial and awesome. As for a charter for the swim itself - I don't think you really need to do that to get the full swim experience - for a little one the wait can be long, since we never know exactly when the swim will take place. (The park idea could be great since you would have those swings for distraction during the wait!) Also - if you scroll down through this forum, you'll see a question "SMALL CHILDREN AT THE SWIM" - I've mentioned a few other suggestions for young viewers. As for other things during your visit - if you are here on the Monday of swim week, DO get up early and watch the ponies run up the beach! Other fun things - our bowling alley, the movie theatre (with Misty's hoof prints outside) our downtown with fun shops and park with picnic tables, the NASA museum (a spacesuit you can have your photo taken "wearing") and of course the Pony Center. Mr. Whippy's and the Creamery for sure - and if you can go on one of the boat tours around the island - that is loads of fun for kids. Captain Barry, Captain Dan, Daisey's - they're all great with kids - you can read reviews here under "things to do". I also think the center at the Refuge is fantastic - very beautiful and interactive.

Hope you and your daughter have a wonderful time - I'll bet you'll be back!

Cranford, New Jersey
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3. Re: Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

You two ladies rock! Thank you so much for such detailed responses -- this is EXACTLY what I needed to make this a great trip. How kind of you to take the time! Now I've got to take all of your advice, follow all of your leads listed here and put together an official plan!

Julia -- we have begun reading Misty of Chincoteague together in preparation for the trip -- although my daughter just thinks we are reading it to read it -- the trip is a surprise for her.

Tina, we are trying to determine when to arrive and I didn't realize that on Monday morning we can see the ponies run up the beach -- perfect information!

Thank you both so very much. This all just sounds like such good, wholesome family fun -- genuine stuff, you know? That's what we're trying to teach our daughter, and the fact that it's horse-central, well, she's going to be in her glory.

Best to you both,

Gretchen

Philadelphia
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4. Re: Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

You have picked the perfect birthday surprise for your daughter. What a wonderful way to celebrate a seventh birthday for a horse-loving little girl. I agree with everything that all the writers have said. The Monday morning roundup of the Northern Herd is a must see and probably the closest you will be able to get to the ponies when they are not in a corral. You all will have to get up VERY early Monday morning and probably should be out at the beach around 6 AM--mostly to get a parking place. Stop by McDonald's on your way out there and pick up some coffee and breakfast. The ponies will come down the beach between 7-8 am and be driven by the saltwater cowboys into the corral right next to the road. If you don't want to sit in the sand to wait, you can park your car along the road but definitely be there early to secure a parking place. Tuesday is a day of rest for the ponies; it will be a great day to explore the town and have a little beach time. Wednesday's pony swim is dependant on the lowest point of the slack tide. It will be very crowded and hot, no matter where you watch the swim. Patience is important but everyone is in good humor. I think the best place to actually see the swim is from the water so your boat tour is a good idea even if it is expensive.Sunscreen, bottled water and plenty of bug spray are essential to a good time. If you do not get a good place to see the actual swim, the ponies rest up for a little while immediately after the swim and then get herded down to the fairgrounds--you can see them along that route. Thursday morning is the pony auction. I think it is most charming (for the audience) and heartbreaking event (for the ponies) of the whole week. The foals are separated from their mothers and sold to the highest bidders--many of these buyers are lucky children buying their first ponies. There are also groups of "special interest" bidders. Two of these groups are The Buy-Back Babes who buy ponies that go back to Assasteague to sustain the viability of the herd and the Feather Fund who buys children the pony of their dreams based on an application process.The price of the ponies ranges from about $500 up into the tens of thousands. All proceeds go to the fire department who owns and manages the VA herd. The month-long carnival is great fun, an old-fashioned one with rides, sweet and sticky treats, bingo and concessions. If you need a break from the crowds, a restful place is the library right off Main Street where you can check your email and simply enjoy the quiet.Another place to see for a small admission fee is the Museum of Chincoteague, right across from McDonald's; it will give you the history of both Chincoteague and Assasteague, where the ponies might have come from originally plus it has Misty and Stormy on display. I guarantee that you all will have a great time.

5. Re: Planning our first-ever Pony Swim Visit - lots of questions!

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