After years of traveling with two young kids, my husband and I have learned a few things.

After years of traveling with two young kids, my husband and I have learned a few things.

First and foremost, we discovered that, most of the time, "close by and simple" is better than "far flung and hectic."

That's why last spring we happily loaded up the van and headed over to Wheeling, W.Va., while many of our friends and neighbors were boarding planes to Orlando or Tampa.

We had a long list of things we wanted to do, but we built in time for hanging at the hotel pool, taking family walks and lingering at places we loved.

Our first stop was The Children's Museum of the Ohio Valley and linger we did.

We had budgeted two hours for the stop but four hours later we were dragging the boys (then 5 and 7) out of the museum, which is housed in a converted storefront.

My oldest son spent a great deal of time routing and rerouting the water that flowed through the stream table. The homemade contraption - a wooden box filled with rocks and mud - appealed to the engineer in him.

Meanwhile, my younger son scampered around the building visiting the bubble station (where you can encase yourself in a giant bubble) and Animal Alley, which is home to several exotic pets.

Together, they played endlessly at the Kid Construction Co., and organized a show in the dramatic play area.

We had several stops planned for the next day but we weren't feeling pressured. The city was easy to get around and most of the places we planned to visit were free or inexpensive.

We headed to the Kruger Street Toy & Train Museum located in an old elementary school. The museum has an amazing collection of vintage toys as well as operating O and HO gauge train layouts. Highlights include an extensive collection of dolls and doll houses, toys manufactured at the Louis Marx Co., and an interactive slot car exhibit. Curator James Schulte also has built an amazing display of K'NEX pieces. We loved the kid-friendly atmosphere and the numerous hands-on displays.

We spent a lazy afternoon exploring Grand Vue Park. We hiked and played miniature golf. The 650-acre park, which has cabins for rent, opened a zip line over the summer.

Our final day was spent at the Good Zoo in Oglebay Resort & Conference Center and in Centre Market, a historic district that features unique restaurants and stores.

Though quite a bit smaller than the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, the Good Zoo had plenty to keep my family entertained. They thoroughly enjoyed the Colors of Nature display and reptile area, an elaborate indoor space that would be a great retreat on an indoor-weather kind of day. The exhibit provided a nice explanation of how an animal can use its appearance to hide from predators.

My oldest son had fun feeding the lorikeets and happily allowed them to sit on his outstretched hands and arms. The facility features several rare and endangered species including the Grevy's zebra, which can be viewed from the zoo's train ride.

After the zoo, we headed back into town to catch the weekly science demonstration at SMART Centre Market, a local science store. The free program is offered by store owner Robert Strong, a science educator who loves to share his knowledge about astronomy, fossils and many other kid-friendly topics. On the day we visited, he took us outside to make giant bubbles.

Afterward, we wandered through the market and several nearby shops.

All in all, the visit was a thoroughly entertaining and relaxing get-away, which isn't always the case when traveling with kids.