Fall Reading List – 2017

I blinked and summer is behind us.  Booo.  But never fear, there is fall-foliage, crisp mornings, and chilly evenings that all make it a perfect time to curl up with a good book.  I’m excited to share with you my fall reading list for 2017!

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do – Chris Guillebeau is best known in travel circles for having visited all 193 countries.  However, he’s been able to build a remote worklife and his lifestyle is intriguing.  I’m most interested in his chapters on entrepreneurship and building a loyal following.

Mother of God – Mother of God is the Madre de Dios, a region of west Peru where the Amazon River begins its course. Paul Rosolie, the author, was only 18 when he left to explore this vast jungle.  You know they say that readers make the best writers, and I’m hoping that reading this travelogue will help me as I write about my travels (albeit I don’t plan to have any anacondas on my trips).

So Happiness to Meet You – From the publisher, “After job losses and the housing crash, the author and her family leave L.A. to start over in a most unlikely place: a nine-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.”  Just released in July, this is sure to be a fascinating read!

The Power of the Other – From the publisher, “Popular wisdom suggests that we should not allow others to have power over us, but the reality is that they do, for better or for worse.”  Ahhh, preach!  “Combining engaging case studies, persuasive findings from cutting-edge brain research, and examples from his consulting practice, Dr. Cloud argues that whether you’re a Navy SEAL or a corporate executive, outstanding performance depends on having the right kind of connections to fuel personal growth and minimize toxic associations and their effects.” From Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the popular Boundaries, this is sure to be a helpful book!

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – I can’t think of anything more exciting than a trip around the world, which, in 2017, doesn’t involve much drama, thanks to efficient airplanes and affordable travel options. However this trip takes place in 1899!  Two women, both leaving from NYC, try to break the record for the fastest trip around the world.  Nellie heads east by steamship and Elizabeth heads west by train. I can’t wait to dive into it!

Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys – Folks, can I just say, raising boys is hard?  Especially the strong-willed one that questions EVERY. LITTLE. THING.  I’m always open to new wisdom, and this book came highly recommended.  It will make a great addition to my fall reading.

What are you reading this fall?  I’d love to know!

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How to have a family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

At 33-years-old and living in Ohio nearly my entire life, it felt like a TRAVESTY that I hadn’t been to Put-in-Bay.  Put-in-Bay is a small city on South Bass Island, Lake Erie, that’s probably most well-known by the locals for it’s flourishing nightlife.  However, visiting with our children showed me that it can be kid-friendly!

Today, I’m sharing how you can have a family-fun day at Put-in-Bay (I’m a poet and I know it).

#1 Take Miller Ferry to Put-in Bay

Miller Ferry is an easy and affordable option to get to Put-in-Bay.  As a cost-conscious family, a quick Google search revealed that Miller Ferry is less than HALF the cost of their competitor.  It’s hard to justify paying more for a boat trip that only takes 20 minutes!  We found the ferry terminal to be convenient and all day parking was plentiful and only $5.  Also, there are clean restrooms at both terminals.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#2  Rent a golf cart from E’s rental

Located just steps from the Ferry Terminal- E’s Put-in-Bay Golf Carts was a convenient option for our daytrip to Put-in-Bay.  We arrived at a very busy time (noon) and yet it only took about 5 minutes for me to check-in for my pre-reserved golf cart.  E’s has a large inventory of 2, 4 and 6-person golf carts.

Each golf cart is named, and our oldest child enjoyed reading all of the names to us!  Next time I go, I’d like this one. 😉

E's Golf Carts- a Family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#3  Check out downtown Put-in-Bay

I recommend doing this FIRST thing when you arrive.  I’m not a prude, but there are some things I’m not ready to explain!  We noticed that the crowd changed quickly around 3 pm.  So head here for an early lunch, let the kids play on the pristine playground with water views, and take a spin on Kimberly’s Carousel.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#4 Visit Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument

Families visiting Put-in-Bay should not miss the Perry Victory & International Peace Monument.  The 352-foot monument and Visitor Center commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place during the War of 1812.  We were lucky enough to arrive just as a Ranger-led educational session was beginning, but the Visitor Center alone is a wealth of information on Put-in-Bay’s role in the war.

The International Peace Monument is the only Peace Memorial in the USA’s National Park Service.  It commemorates the long-lasting peace between Canada, the USA, and the United Kingdom.  These three flags still fly outside the memorial.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#5 Enjoy the views from a State Park

South Bass Island offers two family-friendly State Parks- South Bass State Park and Oak Point State Park.  Oak Point State Park is the state’s smallest state park at only an acre and a half, but it does pack some gorgeous views of Put-in-Bay and Perry’s Monument (even on a cloudy day).  This would be a perfect spot for a family picnic.Oak Point State Park- Family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

South Bass State Park is more of full-service park that offers camping and a public boat launch.  They also have four cabents, which look like a cross between a yurt and a cabin.  We’d like to go back and rent one for weekend of family-fun!

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

Have you been to Put-in-Bay or South Bass Island?  What do you recommend for families to do?  

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

** Miller Ferry provided me with ferry transportation and a golf cart rental.  However, all opinions are my own.**

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Planning a family-friendly day at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

The NEW Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills- with kids

One of my reasons for wanting to visit Hocking Hills this year, besides staying in a super cool Caboose, was to try out the new Whispering Cave trail at Hocking Hills with the kids.  As a family, we’ve been to Hocking Hills numerous times, so it was exciting to know that this time we’d have a new area to check out.  The Whispering Cave/Hemlock Bridge Trail opened in May 2017.

The trail head to the Whispering Cave trail is adjacent to the Hocking Hills Lodge and parking lot.  Unfortunately, the Dining Lodge burnt down in late 2016.

Map from ODNR – red graphics are all mine, lol

You’ll start from the UU and, as I’ve marked on the map, to get to the Whispering Cave, you’ll want to go all the way to the VV (yellow trail).  We did not follow the green trail all the way to the bottom of Hemlock Gorge because it was already a steep descent.

You know your family’s limitations better than mine, but completing the Whispering Cave portion was enough for our kids.  The boys struggled going up all of the stairs and the steep climb on the return, and our 3 year old insisted that I hold her because her legs were too tired.  I believe I counted approvimately 110 stairs, which are always much easier on the way down. Lol.

According to ODNR, the trip is only .8 miles each way, but like I mentioned, there are some steep cliffs.  Make sure you wear proper footwear or hiking tennis shoes.  If you’re dealing with children under 3, I’d recommend something like a Kelty child carrier– this trail is in NO way stroller-friendly.  Check out instead:  Best Hiking Trails at Hocking Hills for Kids

The yellow trail (pictured above) is mostly what hugs the cliff as you make your way into the Whispering Cave.

This way!

Once you arrive at Whispering Cave, the nerve-wracking descent will be over and you’ll be thankful you made this journey with your kids.  The cave is something to marvel at- I’m not sure photos can do it justice.  For us, it was less of a Whispering Cave and more of a “scream bloody murder” as C got a splinter from that pretty new fencing.  (That’s when you’re thankful for a passerby with a Swiss Army knife).

Also, we visited on a Monday in June, and as you can tell, the site was busy.  However, the hike had only been open for one month and it was summertime.  I’ll be eager to see how busy this trail becomes on the weekends.  Will it be as frequented as some of the other Hocking Hills hikes?  I’m sure the scenery alone will cause that!

Have you been to the Whispering Cave yet?  Have you been to Hocking Hills with your family?

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Homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

It’s hard to believe it’s our 3rd year of homeschooling.  It seems like I just had two in diapers and now I have two in school!  ((Cue the weeping))  A few close friends ask for homeschool updates, so without further ado, I’ll share what we’re planning this year while homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner.

If you want to read our past updates on homeschooling:

A really long post about our first year of homeschooling

Second year of homeschooling

The past two years I’ve focused heavily on reading and math.  My philosophy for younger kids is that if you can get them reading and doing math, the science and history and other puzzle pieces will all fall into place.

For Olen, our kindergartner, I’ll be focusing on those two things!  I feel like, unfortunately, since Olen was my middle one in the midst of 3 under 4, he missed out on some of the preschool work that I did with Jackson.  I’ll be doing the same Abeka K5 program for phonics and reading that I also did with Jackson.  The program is probably better suited to a small classroom or private school, but it did set a good foundation for Jackson so we’ll roll with it again.

Handwriting will be the ever-famous Handwriting without Tears.  We’re fairly certain that Olen is a leftie, so hopefully I’ll be free of tears, too, as I navigate trying to teach left-handing writing.

Homeschooling a 2nd grader and kindergartner - Handwriting without Tears

Jackson (2nd grade) will be starting the next book in the series of A Reason for Handwriting.  I really like this workbook and the way it helps us to also learn Scripture.

For math, we’re doing some catch-up and review via a School Zone Kindergarten workbook and flashcards, and then diving right into Horizons Math 1.  Jackson is nearly halfway through Horizons Math 2 and we should complete that this year.  I like Horizons, but I do feel like it moves at a quick pace.  I want my children to master a skill, not just ace the test.  I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing addition and subtraction with Jackson and let’s hope it haspaid off!  He’s starting multiplication this week.

For science, both boys will be studying Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, although I expect Olen’s role will be geared more towards just coloring in his accompanying Junior Notebooking Journal.

Homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

For history, we’re going to use the The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child and the accompanying activity book.  Because I love history, this was the hardest curriculum for me to pick.   I really like the Classical model, and I’m hoping this will be a good fit for our family!  I think I’ll be able to gear this for both boys based on the activities- Jackson will be able to do a little more than Olen, but I like that we can all work on it TOGETHER.

The Story of the World - Homeschooling a 2nd grader and kindergartner

For Ohio history, we’re planning field trips to Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Johnny Appleseed Museum at Urbana University.  We’re also hoping to get to Marietta!

That’s probably all for Olen- while Jackson will have his own spelling, language arts, and phonics.

For  Jackson’s phonics, we’re using Explode the Code again.

I call my homeschool the hodge-podge method and it’s because I enjoy many different styles.  I’ve enjoyed many things by Charlotte Mason.  Last year we used a Charlotte-Mason based nature study called The Outdoor Secrets Companion and I’m sure that over the years I will revisit this combination of literature and nature.  For Jackson’s language arts we’re using Language Lessons for Today: Grade 2.

Spelling will be Building Spelling Skills- Book 2.

Building Spelling Skills- Homeschooling a 2nd grader and Kindergartner

We also spend lots of time developing our reading and listening skills by reading aloud.  Over the summer, the kids “earned” screen time by reading books and allowing me to read to them.  We’re reading through the Little House on the Prairie series and will finish The Long Winter this week.  Anyone have any suggestions for when we’re ready to move on from the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder?

The Long Winter- homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

Per the State of Ohio, we’re to cover health topics like nutrition and body care.  I found this fun book called Nutrition Fun with Brocc & Roll and I think it puts a kid-friendly spin on how to read labels and I can’t wait to get my copy. I’ll be supplemented with some library materials like Nutrition Facts for Kids and Good Enough to Eat.

Nutrition Fun- Homeschooling a 2nd grader and Kindergartner

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention our darling Miss C. So far she’s been sitting at the table and doing many of the same things as Olen.  She hasn’t been as distracting as last year (but it’s only day 6!).  Today, when she tired of my instruction, she just went to her room and played with her dolls.  We’ll see how it goes as the year progresses.

Tell me- What’s your go-to curriculum?  Do you use any of the same things? I’d love to know!  

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Things to do in Ohio in Fall

I’m sad to say that summer is leaving us and the kids are heading back to school.  However, autumn is a glorious season in Ohio and there’s many family-friendly things to do in Ohio in Fall.

Here’s some ideas for what to do in my great state, as well as additional visitor information.

 

Things to do in Ohio in fall

September

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival –  September 8-10, 2017  Marietta has been home to the Sternwheel Festival for over 40 years!  I’ve already been charmed by this river town, so I can see why a free family-friendly event would make it even more desirable.

For more things to do while you’re visiting Marietta check out 5 Reasons You Must Visit, Outdoor Adventures via Backroad Ramblers, Explore Ohio’s First Adventure via Big Family Minimalist & Outdoor Adventures via Pickles Travel.

Ohio Renaissance Festival – September 2- October 29, 2017  Want to see a sword fight, joust, or a tale of Robin Hood without traveling back in time?  The Ohio Renaissance Festival is sure to delight kids of all ages through food, shows, and old-fashioned games and rides.  The festival runs for nearly two months with themed weekend programming.  You can check out The Wandering Educator’s review HERE  OR The Adventure Mom’s thoughts HERE.

Backwoods Fest September 15-17, 2017  Thornville’s Backwoods Fest is located near Buckeye Lake.  The three-day festival is an arts and crafts extravaganza of over 300 vendors situated in the woods of Perry County.  The food options are mouth-watering!  Kids aged 10 and under are free, but make sure if you take a stroller that it’s one with big wheels — it’s not called “backwoods” for nothing. 😉

Columbus OktoberFest – September 22-24, 2017  In its 50th year, the Columbus OktoberFest is a free family event located at the Ohio Expo Center/Ohio State Fairgrounds.  The fall tradition hosts a men’s and women’s stone toss & cream puff eating competition (you had me at cream puff).  There’s over 10,000 feet of covered space, so the festival will go on whether rain or shine.

Cedar Point HalloWeekendsSeptember 15- October 29, 2017  America’s Roller Coaster Capital hosts a 7-weekend event geared for the Halloween enthusiast.  Daytimes are a kid-friendly Great Pumpkin Fest.  Once dark descends, though, so do the creepy ghosts and zombies.  HalloWeekends are included in the price of your admission – consider booking a package with a stay at the newly renovated Hotel Breakers.  Find out more on HalloWeekends from Adventure Mom’s post on how to survive if you don’t like the scarier stuff.

Things to do in Ohio in the fall- HalloWeekends

October

Bob Evans Farm Fest – October 13-15, 2017   Did you know that the popular chain, Bob Evans, actually began in the hills of southern Ohio?  Rio Grande, Ohio is home to this 3-day festival of crafts, kids’ activities and musical entertainment- and of course, a Bob Evans food tent.  Find out more in this post by Ohio Girl Travels.

Take a hike or a road trip to see fall foliage – early-late October  Ohio’s trees put on a show in the month of October.  Fall foliage varies greatly from the north and south ends of the state but consider a roadtrip or a hike to enjoy the beauty of autumn.  Get started here:  Five family-friendly Ohio hikes or Top 5 Hocking Hills hikes for kids

Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival – October 14 & 15th, 2017  Ashtabula County boasts the most Covered Bridges in the state of Ohio- 19 in total!  Come celebrate all things covered bridges, and take a driving tour while you’re at it.  This is one road trip going on my Ohio Bucket List.

Circleville Pumpkin ShowOctober 18-21st, 2017  Over 100 years old, the Circleville Pumpkin Show is a staple of fall in Ohio!  Test your taste buds on about every pumpkin-flavored food imaginable.  7 parades, a ride midway, and a giant pumpkin contest round out the fun.  Wanting more to do while in Circleville?- Look no further.

Things to do in Ohio in Fall

Apple Butter Stirrin Festival October 21-22, 2017  This Coshocton festival highlights apple butter including demonstrations on how it is made over an open fire.  With family activities and over 100 vendors, this Roscoe Village event is sure to please.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Ohio in the fall?  

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Things to do in Ohio in Fall

Thirty-One Gifts – Empowering women + NEW fall line

In my short time as a blogger, I’ve been blessed with opportunities that I didn’t really expect!  One of them happened a few weeks ago, when I was able to attend the Thirty-One Gifts Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

If you live in the USA or Canada, I’m sure you’ve heard of Thirty-One’s stylish and functional purses, wallets, and organizing solutions.  I’ve used their products for at least 7 years, for everything from diaper bags to file folders and travel accessories.  Thirty-One really does offer problem-solving totes for all ages, but what I found out even more from attending their conference is that they aim to inspire and empower woman through Christian values.  They also have some of THE friendliest employees I have ever met!

Thirty-One’s conference is a three-day weekend of uplifting speakers, hands-on training, and a conference shop.  It should have been no surprise the massive crowd at Nationwide Arena, because combining US and Canada numbers, there are over 63,000 independent sales consultants!  Thirty-One is the 38th largest direct selling company IN THE WORLD!

Seeing this caliber of company, it’s easy to understand why they had speakers like Carrie Wilkerson, John Addison, and Dewitt Jones.  Our session included an hour long presentation by Dewitt Jones, who spent twenty years as a world-class photographer for National Geographic.  Being the travel-obsessed lady that I am, I couldn’t wait to hear Jones’ perspective on creativity and success.

One of the first things that Mr. Jones told the Thirty-One family was,

Celebrate what is right with the world rather than what is wrong with it.Click To Tweet

Would it have been awkward for me to give him a standing ovation at that moment?  Don’t worry, I didn’t!

Dewitt talked about how he got started at National Geographic by pitching what seemed like a crazy adventure as a paid gig.  As a young college kid, he wanted to shoot a video of some friends kayaking up the coast of Japan.  The story was pretty funny, but he believes that he got the job only because he kept pushing into life- and it pushed back.

He urged us that were listening with the charge, “When passion and creativity are are there, discipline and commitment isn’t lacking.”  Isn’t that fact?  When we are passionate and creative, we don’t have to wonder if we’ll stay committed.  It’s like the old adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”  YES.  (I’m about to stand up and clap RIGHT NOW).

Dewitt wove his beautiful images into his speech, showing us how changing our perspective can completely change the outcome.  In his heyday, he would take over 14,000 photos to get 30 for a magazine spread.  In other words, think how much it takes to train your technique and focus on your vision.

He pushed again, “Life is continually finding the next right answer.”  Wow, isn’t that true.  Whether we are selling purses or writing a blog or raising kids or navigating an airport– We are continually tweaking our skills and procedure to find what works best.

Mr. Jones entire speech aligned with the Thirty-One vision, which is “to give women the tools to achieve financial freedom to support their personal “Whys” and to make the path to that freedom simple, easy & fun, and full of rewarding experiences.”

I’m thankful I was able to have such a rewarding experience by attending the conference!

Now, not going to lie, while the speech was well-received, we ladies love some FREE STUFF.  Afterward, the fall catalog conference swag was released and the crowd was pumped.

Here’s a sample of Thirty-One Gifts fall 2017:

Cinch Sac in Little Bones – My Olen wants to use this for Trick or Treat.  How adorable!

Essential Storage Tote in Moosin’ Around – I know this is geared towards Christmas, but I want to plan a trip to Canada or Alaska based solely based upon this print and have all of my bags personalized. That is all. #agirlcandream

Littles Carry-all Caddy in Grey Lil’ Scribble – this bag is part of the We Give Back initiative…and I can’t wait to use it in C’s room

You can find even more in the new Fall Catalog!

Which one of these products is your favorite?  Anyone else ready to book a trip based upon a bag?  Or, what speech has inspired you lately?

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*I attended Thirty-One’s conference as a member of the media and received the above bags for free.  All opinions are my own!*

Best places for dessert in Fort Wayne, Indiana

When you think of a foodie destination, the Midwestern city of Fort Wayne may not come to mind!  However, our family had a blast eating our way through the city! Here are our tips for 3 of the best places for dessert in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Yummi Bunni

The name didn’t give me a clue as to why we should visit Yummi Bunni.  However, we’re not talking about a little rabbit (although it is in their logo), we’re talking about a BUN- a glazed one, nonetheless.  Inside of that sweet bun is your ice cream of choice AND a topping.  Think of something like the seasonal “Ooey Gooey” which is  s’mores ice cream with toasted marshmallow cream, topped with fudge and graham cracker chunks and then a peanut butter drizzle! That’s a big serving of happiness if you ask me.  😉

 

I believe the top option was named after me!

The Yummi Bunni is located in a convenient downtown location, which was only a short walk from our hotel- The Hilton Fort Wayne at Grand Wayne Convention.

This Fort Wayne dessert shop is so popular, it was recently featured on the Today Show on a segment showcasing ice cream trends.  The Yummi Bunni is one trend you’ll want to take part in, trust me!

Sweets So Geek

This little gem is located in an unassuming strip mall, but I promise you that Sweets So Geek will deliver some BIG tastes.

We went to Sweets so Geek hoping for Star Wars cutouts, but they didn’t have any that day.  However, Olen picked out Ghostbusters gummies, i.e. Slimer.  We also had lightsaber chocolate-covered pretzels and delicious cupcakes.  I chose a gluten-free cupcake and my husband and I both agreed that the cupcakes may have been the best we’d ever had!

If your kids love superheroes or sci-fi, they are sure to love the shop that’s themed towards their favorite characters.  My kids favorite part (after the treats)- the toilet paper roll in the restroom was a toy lightsaber.  #momtooknotes

DeBrand Fine Chocolates

DeBrand already has a well-established name as one of the best desserts in Fort Wayne and for good reason!  You can tour the DeBrand Fine Chocolates factory on the north side or visit one of their other three locations.  We chose to stop by the downtown shop, looking for a cool treat after a fun morning spent kayaking.

Their downtown location has a swanky vibe to it, with velvet coverings and soft lighting.  We marched in in our sweaty athletic gear, so you don’t have to dress up!  While DeBrand Fine Chocolate’s signature is their chocolate, we tried their gelato and were not disappointed.  I got the citrus flavor and it was a refreshing treat!  If you’re visiting on a cold day, they offer espressos and hot chocolate.

Fort Wayne has so many great dessert places, you’ll definitely want to make room in your diet!  Or, be like us, and have ice cream and cupcakes for lunch.

Have you been to Fort Wayne, Indiana?  What’s your favorite local treat?

More to do in Fort Wayne:  48 Hours in Family-Friendly Fort Wayne

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** I was hosted by the Fort Wayne CVB.  All opinions & photographs are my own.**

** Post contains affiliate links**

Best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is the perfect family-friendly Ohio destination.  The main attraction of Hocking Hills are her natural rock formations and numerous waterfalls, but all of these must be reached by hiking trails.  Over the years I wished that someone would have ranked the easiest or best trails for young children. So, after multiple visits with our family, I’ve come up with a list of the best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills.

#1  Ash Cave

The easiest hiking trail at Hocking Hills for kids of all ages is the paved Gorge Trail at Ash Cave.  This trail is stroller/wheelchair accessible and it’s only 0.3 miles long each way, so if you have young ones that want to walk, but tire out quickly, they should be able to handle the short distance.

The trail ends at the large cave recess- Ash Cave stands over 90 feet high and is almost 700 feet wide from end to end, so it’s sure to wow even the littlest traveler.  The area is full of sand and the rocks can be slippery, so tennis shoes should be worn.  However, on dry days I’ve found Ash Cave to be almost one giant (shallow) sandbox.  If you have a little one that likes diggers or trucks, maybe pack a few small ones to give yourself a moment of solitude.

#2 Conkles Hollow

Conkles Hollow is a State Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  This is one of the most dramatic areas in the winter, as the walls of the gorge can be filled with ice formations.  On one winter visit my little ones through we had taken off to Elsa’s land in Frozen.

The best trail for kids at Conkles Hollow would be the half-mile Gorge Trail.   The Gorge Trail at Conkles Hollow is paved and stroller-friendly, just note that if you do visit in winter, this area does not get a lot of sun and you may be walking on a sheet of ice instead of a paved trail!  For the most part though, for the summer and fall visitor, this paved trail is without too many hazards for children to encounter and makes a must-see stop on your Hocking Hills vacation.

#3 Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls is one of the most iconic sites at Hocking Hills!  For good reason – the waterfall and surroundings are truly magical.  There are multiple ways to reach the Cedar Falls and with small children it’s hard to know which is the best!

I recommend parking at the main Cedar Falls parking area (this is not the one right along 374 but instead follow the signs to a stone sign and parking entrance).  This trail is NOT stroller friendly, but you do enter the gorge via stairs which for me is easier if holding the hand of a toddler or wearing them in a carrier.  I’m less nervous about falling!   (Using this map, you’d only hike the portion where the yellow and purple go together and then turn around).

#4 Rockbridge

Rockbridge is another Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  I had a hard time choosing the between a #4 and #5 for the best hiking trails, but I like Rockbridge because there is very little time in which I HAVE to be holding the hand of my preschooler.  The path begins in essentially, a pasture, and then weaves through the woods before coming to Ohio’s largest natural rock bridge.  This is the area where you’ll need to be extra careful with young children too ensure they don’t fall.

Another reason why I love the Rockbridge is because I’ve never found it to be as busy as Ash Cave or Old Man’s Cave.  It’s not “off the beaten track” but in the words of a fellow traveler I met on our last visit, “Old Man’s Cave was like an airport terminal.”  You’ll find out for yourself.

#5 Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave is one of the hallmarks of Hocking Hills.  For the most kid-friendly experience, I’d take the stairs down to the bottom of the gorge and get on the blue Grandma Gatewood Trail.  This trail allows you to view the main attractions of the Devil’s bathtub and Upper Falls.  You will have access to the upper gorge and rim trails, but with younger children I’d probably just take the stairs back the same way you came down.

Have you been to Hocking Hills?  Which trail would you recommend as the best for kids?

You can learn more about Hocking Hills HERE (i.e. find out why I don’t recommend the Rock House).

Looking for a place to stay?  Check out the Hocking Hills Caboose.

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The Hocking Hills Caboose- Unique Ohio Lodging

All aboard!  Take a seat!  I can’t wait to tell you all about our stay at The Hocking Hills Caboose- a unique Ohio lodging opportunity.  Our young family had a fantastic time at this Hocking Hills cabin-like property, and I’ve been bursting to share!

I couldn’t believe the interest from friends and family- even grandma- on what it was like to sleep in a caboose.  I’ll be honest, I’m no happy camper and was worried about whether the Caboose would be too primitive for my travel snobbery.  Spoiler alert: I was pleasantly surprised by the furnishings AND the size of the bathroom.

First, a little history lesson.  The Hocking Hills Caboose is an authentic 1950s train caboose!  It was originally a part of the Seaboard Air Line train systems and was probably used in service until the 1980s.  Did you know that in the 1980s cabooses were no longer needed because new technology could monitor the train and apply the brakes?  I did not!  So this caboose ended up in a railyard in Columbus until it was purchased by the Hocking Valley Railway and then renovated for overnight stays!  However, the Caboose has new owners and was completely overhauled last year- there’s new flooring, decor, and all new plumbing and heating and cooling.  This makes for hot showers and cool air-conditioning!

I can’t think for a better place for the Caboose to be situated.  Hocking Hills is the go-to Ohio destination for hiking and outdoor adventure.  And The Hocking Hills Caboose is located only 2 miles from Ash Cave, one of the area’s most visited attractions.

Arriving at the Caboose, it seemed bigger than what I could tell from the photographs.  The Hocking Hills Caboose has a maximum occupancy of five, but I immediately noticed that our family wouldn’t feel cramped.  Once inside, the ceilings are high (I’m 5’10”) and there’s plenty of room to spread out.

The entrance opens into a kitchen.  The kitchen is what I would call an “efficiency kitchen” as it contains a small fridge, sink, microwave, and plenty of cooking utensils.  There is also a toaster and coffee pot (the latter is of crucial importance).  The fridge is like one of those you had in your college dorm room, so if you’re bringing lots of food or meat to grill, make sure you bring it in streamlined packaging- i.e. freezer bags.  We stayed for 2 nights and we were able to make it work.

One thing to note about the kitchen is that the only way to cook if there is bad weather would be via the microwave.  I discussed with the owners about the need for a hot plate or griddle, but they shared that those are a big fire risk, and I completely understand!  Just make sure you plan ahead or budget a little extra money in case you find yourself needing to eat out.  There’s numerous restaurants in the  Hocking Hills area that you’ll want to try anyway!

See that table to the right?  There’s a built-in bench against the wall so it’s easy to pull the table out and use it!  It’s like HGTV tiny home living!

The next area is devoted to bunks.  There are two upper bunks and one lower.  This worked out perfectly for our two boys!  The top bunks are fairly high (the boys reminded me they were 6 steps!), but they had three windows at top and plenty of head room.  If you’re traveling as a group of adults, these would be plenty big enough for big people – i.e. you better believe I climbed up there and sampled the space!

 

Keep walking and there are two lower bunks, which Mr. YT and I laid our claim. And then there’s a full bathroom.  The bathroom was one of my concerns before traveling to the Caboose.  I’ve been in the bathroom of a RV/camp trailer and they are hardly big enough to swivel in, let alone bathe three children.  The Hocking Hills Caboose has a corner sink, full-sized toilet, and square shower.  It was spacious enough for me to fit in the bathroom with one of our children while helping them shower.  The bathroom was actually bigger than the recent hotels we have stayed in, but there is no tub.

I appreciated all of the unique railroad decor throughout the Caboose,  including the lantern style-lighting. These railroad nail hooks were just a few of the small pieces that make this feel like an authentic train!  I can see The Hocking Hills Caboose being a destination not only for families with children that love trains, but even adult train-enthusiasts or the local collector.  If you look closely in the kitchen picture, all of the curtains were also train-themed fabrics.

While the interior of the Caboose was fun and family-friendly, the outdoors was where we spent most of our time.  On the attached deck there is a grill and outdoor table with seating for 5.  We spent both afternoons out here grilling and enjoying family time.  

The fire pit is adjacent to the deck and also has seating for 5!   We spent our evenings here roasting marshmallows and watching the moon rise.

Maybe the reason I loved the Caboose the most?  It was disconnected from cable and internet!  I know that may turn some people off, but for my husband and I, who are both able to work remotely, not being able to answer the phone or pull up Facebook FORCED us to disconnect and make eye contact with our favorite little people.  Cell phone service was spotty throughout the Hocking Hills as well, so this truly was a getaway.  We hope to visit the Caboose again next summer and make even more memories.

Have you been to Hocking Hills?  Did you know you could stay in a Caboose?

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* I would like to thank the owners of the Hocking Hills Caboose for hosting our stay.  As always, all opinions are my own.*

48 hours of family-friendly fun in Fort Wayne

The definitive guide to Fort Wayne, Indiana with kids

New York, Chicago, Nashville- these cities come to mind when thinking of a long weekend with which to take the kids along.  Fort Wayne?  Well, it wasn’t on my radar and most likely hasn’t made its way to yours.  However, for the Midwest traveler, it’s definitely worth the trip!  Not only is Fort Wayne close-to-home, but it’s very clean and manageable for young ones.  Here’s how to spend 48 hours in family-friendly Fort Wayne:

Evening #1

Arrive and check in to your centrally located hotel, The Hilton at the Grand Wayne Convention Center.  The rooms aren’t the most spacious, but you won’t be in the room much (trust me).

If the Minor League baseball team, The TinCaps, are in town, walk just a block to their beautiful stadium.  If not, head to dinner at the Hoppy Gnome.  The Hoppy Gnome is popular for their outdoor patio, unique taco combinations, and craft beer selection.  My husband and I both chose the taco platters- his favorite was the Steak & Rajitas, mine was the Three Little Pigs.

48 hours in Fort Wayne - The Hoppy Gnome

Day Two- 

It’s going to be a jam-packed day in Fort Wayne, so you’ll want to start early.

The must-do breakfast stop is Cindy’s Diner.  “Serving the world, 15 at a time,” nab a spot at bar if you can!  My husband enjoyed the “garbage” breakfast which is an egg hash filled with everything!  The kids were delighted with plate-sized pancakes at a price of $1.60 a pancake- mom and dad were happy, too!

48 Hours in Fort Wayne - Cindy's Diner

With bellies full, head to the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  In 2015, this Fort Wayne gem was voted 7th best zoo in the US and the 20th best zoo in the WORLD by TripAdvisor.  It’s easy to see why the zoo is so popular with families.  It is clean, organized, and offers FREE parking.  From petting a stingray to feeding a giraffe, there are many optional experiences to make this zoo an interactive animal encounter.

Note- the Fort Wayne’s Children Zoo is seasonal.  Check the website for opening, but it’s generally late April-mid October.

48 hours in Fort Wayne- Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

In case of rain or visiting when the zoo is closed?  Check out Science Central .  My kids didn’t even realize how much they were learning- they were having too much fun!  For young ones, my littles loved the Kids’ Central, an area for children under 7.  There is also a 2-story slide that our 7 year old was JUST tall enough to go down!  Another hit was this massive water table where kids (and moms) can learn, and test how dams work.

48 Hours in Fort Wayne- Science Central

If I were you, I’d snack through lunch (you’ll be very full from Cindy’s Diner!) and then head to Yummi Bunni for a glorious treat- it may be worth the trip to Fort Wayne just to have a glazed bun, filled with ice cream, and topped with a topping of your choice.  Stomachs and pocketbooks rejoice- it’s only $5!  Pictured here is C with hers (and we cut it into thirds).  This mom says it is perfectly acceptable to eat Yummi Bunni before dinner.

48 hours in Fort Wayne- Yummi Bunni

Feel free to go back to the hotel for a rest (you may be in a sugar coma) or walk off your ice cream by enjoying the public art located throughout Fort Wayne.

After a rest, family-friendly 816 Pint & Slice offers pizza by the slice, calzones, & salads.  There isn’t a ton of seating, but the quick service makes up for it!  The kids were happy they offered cheese-only and we were happy with the prices.  Again, Fort Wayne is a Midwestern city with Midwestern prices, no big-city price gauging!

Head to bed early tonight for tomorrow’s outdoor adventure.

Day three

Wake up and gear up- today’s plan is all about enjoying Fort Wayne’s family-friendly parks and waterways.

Did you know that Fort Wayne sits at the confluence of three rivers: the St. Marys, the St. Joseph and the Maumee?  This makes it the perfect place to pick up a paddle and enjoy a kayak, canoe, or stand up paddleboard!  Our family enjoyed a 2 hour float on the St Marys River.  Fort Wayne Outfitters makes it easy to reserve what will work best for your family, we chose to use a canoe and single kayak.

Fort Wayne Outfitters also has bicycle rentals.  If you have an aversion to the water, consider utilizing the Rivergreenway trail that follows the rivers for 25 miles from Fort Wayne to New Haven, Indiana.

48 hours in Fort Wayne- paddling- Fort Wayne Outfitters

After your paddle or bike ride, visit Headwaters Park and enjoy some of the sculptures and the view of downtown.  This is also where you’ll access the Historic Old Fort.  The current fort is just a reconstruction of the 1815 fort, but it does serve to show you the strategic location of Fort Wayne, one that was fought over by the Native Americans, French and then American forces.  Happening mostly on weekends, check the Old Fort’s calendar for upcoming reenactments.

48 Hours in Fort Wayne- Historic Old Fort

After all this exercise, you deserve a delicious meal.  The Deck is an easy walk from the Old Fort and you won’t even have to move your car.  In the backyard of the famous “Gas House” restaurant, The Deck is a riverfront dining patio and bar.  We found their meals to be well-priced with generous portions.  Kids meals are only $5 and include 2 sides AND a drink- our 3 and 5 year old could have split a meal.  My husband and I both had a burger and we agreed it was one of the best we’ve had!

You’ll leave Fort Wayne with special family memories of good food and great fun!  But even more, you’ll be ready to plan another trip back.

Have you been to Fort Wayne?  How would you spend 48 hours there?  

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Fort Wayne Indiana with kids- 48 hours in Fort Wayne

*I was provided access or tickets to some of the attractions by Visit Fort Wayne.  All opinions are my own.  Post contains affiliate links.*

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