You Can Take The Kids: 5 Ohio Hikes To Do As A Family

The way people talked about having kids, I thought my life was ovvveerrr once we had a few babies.  But hooray- it doesn’t have to be!  If you’re a natural explorer you can still get out and enjoy fantastic scenery WITH kids in tow.

These 5 Ohio places have been tried and tested by our family.  Some are even stroller-friendly!

Hocking Hills area

Hocking Hills is full of natural beauty in all seasons!  One of our favorite times to visit is winter because of all of the ice formations.

Two areas in particular are perfect for parents of small children:  Ash Cave and Conkles Hollow.  Ash Cave has a 1/4 mile handicap accessible trail that is perfect for strollers or new walkers.  The trail does get very busy on weekends, holidays, and in the fall, so plan accordingly (i.e. you may NEED the stroller for containment).

Conkles Hollow has a one mile disabled access trail.  This is also perfect for a stroller, BUT due to the cliff walls, a lot of sunlight does not hit the sidewalk.  We’ve found this trail to be fairly icy and slushy in winter.  Make sure kids wear snow boots, and you may want to forego the stroller. The ice formations on the rocks make this totally worth a little slipping and sliding!  In summer, this is the perfect place to give the stroller a go- I’d stick with a single if possible because the trail isn’t very wide.

Ash Cave and some of my “little” family

Hocking Hills Hotels

Flint Ridge

A ancient flint deposit used by Native Americans and now owned by the Ohio Historical Society, Flint Ridge has a few different hiking options for your family.  One of the trails is mostly boardwalk/paved trail and is perfect for for strollers.  There are other trails past the museum that are ok for ages 2+ to walk (no steep cliff faces).  We visited last winter and it was MUDDY, so don’t wear good shoes.  The museum is open March-October, so plan accordingly.

We graduated off of the stroller path at Flint Ridge

Blackhand Gorge

Located near Flint Ridge is Blackhand Gorge.  Blackhand Gorge is named after a sandstone formation.  A four-mile bike trail is perfect for your family’s stroller or bikes, and you’ll still see lots of great scenery even if you don’t get off of the beaten path.  The Canal-Lock trail showcases of piece of the Old Ohio-Erie Canal towpath.  This is an ideal hike for families, and even toddlers could handle the walk (with a little help from mom or dad).  More info HERE.

Hotels near Flint Ridge & Blackhand Gorge 

Cuyahoga Valley National Park area

Ohio’s first and only National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park really surprised me!  My favorite spot in the park was the Virginia Kendall State Park (aka The Ledges).  This wouldn’t be ideal for a stroller, but I’d say ages 4+ would have no problems handling the stairs and grades.  Within Ohio, this is second only to Hocking Hills as a place that will remind your family how small we really are in comparison to Creation.  My go-to summer hiking shoe

Deep Lock Quarry (within Summit Metro Parks) is also very doable with young ones.  This trail would be best used with a jogging stroller and you will have to miss one small part of the loop, BUT it’s still worth the trip.  Our kiddos loved climbing on the giant sandstone rocks.  More info HERE.

Hotels near CVNP

Sheldon Marsh 

This Ohio nature preserve doesn’t involve an vigorous hike, but it does offer up views of a rare coastal wetland habitat.  The kids enjoyed viewing different birds, seeing lots of chipmunks, and then ending up on the shores of Lake Erie.  This path is definitely stroller-friendly until you get to the beach (no swimming allowed).

Hotels near Sheldon Marsh

Have you hiked any of these trails?  Where does your family enjoy hiking?

2017 Travel Bucket List

Where I want to go this year.

2016 was a year of big travel and big changes for our family.  We traveled Down Under in January and moved an hour away from our home of 7 years just two days after Christmas.  Now that the boxes are unpacked we’re settled in to our new city (kinda) – I wanted to share with the world our travel plans for 2017.

(Our 2016 Travel Bucket List)

Ohio 

Toledo Zoo & Aquarium  +  Oak Openings (this is one we didn’t get to last year and now that we live a little closer I’m hoping we can)

Cedar Bog Nature Preserve & Johnny Appleseed Museum – two very close attractions

Gorge Metro Park (Summit County)

The Cleveland Museum of Art

Cleveland Museum of Natural History– Specifically the new Perkins Wildlife Center

How cool does this look?!

 

In our new town of Mansfield

Kingwood Center Gardens

Richland Carrousel Park

The Blueberry Patch– Blueberry picking, a winery, and cafe.  I hear they have donuts.  Enough said.

Malabar Farm State Park

That’s some lofty travel goals!  Good thing we have 11. 5 months.

United States

Outside of Ohio, we don’t have a bunch of concrete plans.

One trip that is booked is Topsail Island, North Carolina.  Our family has been there numerous times, I think this will be Mr. YT and I’s 9th time!  On our last visit C was only 9 months old, so this time should (hopefully) be a little more relaxed- and include more sleep.

That view never gets old.

On the way to the beach I’d like to cross off New River Gorge, WV.  This National River was on my list last year, but the timing never quite worked out!  It’s only a quick jaunt off of I-77 so I don’t see why we couldn’t leave a couple of days early for NC.

Photo from nps.gov

Fort Wayne, IN-  June will take us to Fort Wayne for the Mr’s work conference. (Last year it was at Belterra Resort & Casino and we traveled alone).  We’re planning to bring the kids this time and make it a family adventure.  Did you know that Fort Wayne has one of the Top 10 zoos in the nation?

Beyond that, we hope to do another week of travel in the USA or Canada.  I’m thinking a Canadian Road Trip to Montreal and Quebec City might be fabulous, but then I get sidetracked thinking of some Southwest miles we’ve accrued and how we could use them for Texas (Joanna Gaines, I love you) or Southern California.   My van is OLD (we only buy used cars with cash) so I’m not sure it could even handle a road trip.  Maybe that will pressure is into flying!

I’ve also got my eye on a few flower festivals. Tulip Time in Holland, Michigan is fairly close to home and looks like a fun weekend.  I’d also like to head south again- New Orleans?  The Lowcountry?  Eh, first things first- we better sell our vacant home.

 

Have you made your travel plans for 2017?  Where are you headed?  Have you been to Fort Wayne?  

The Wallhouse Hotel in Walnut Creek, Ohio

Not your typical Amish Country accommodation!

Walnut Creek, Ohio is known for rolling hills, idyllic farmland, craft shops, and family-style foods.  It’s a hospitable place, one oozing with country-styled B & Bs and hotels.  That’s absolutely awesome- if that is your style.  But if you’re looking for something a little more edgy, shiny, and modern- I recommend taking a closer look at The Wallhouse Hotel.

Room

We stayed as guests of The Wallhouse in a premium corner suite.  The two-room suite was extra large. I don’t know about you, but this mama can get a little crabby when we’re all packed in like sardines, don’t worry, you will have plenty of space here.  The Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

The Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

The fridge is also a helpful size for storing leftovers (oh, those hearty Amish meals) and there was a microwave as well.

The sofa was a pull-out bed.  Our kids are used to sleeping on these when we stay in smaller suites so they volunteered to sleep in the living room.  This was probably so they could get their own TV.  Nonetheless, there are two TVs in the suite, which means the kiddos can be watching Disney Jr, while you and the hubs relax with a little Chip & Joanna Gaines.Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

The bedroom was large enough to sleep 4.  I loved the little office nook.  The window there offered a great view of the valley:

Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

My only complaint about the room was the bathroom.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the bathroom is roomy and high-end.  I love the title work throughout and the huge, walk-in shower.  Here’s the deal, though- the bathroom ONLY has a shower.  It isn’t a deal breaker for us because our youngest is old enough to stand in the shower, but if I was traveling with a baby or toddler, I’d want to know ahead of time.  So, now you know!
Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

Common areas

The Wallhouse Hotel builds “fresh” into their hotel by using solid surfaces that can be wiped clean.  You can see that the above bathroom is immaculate, but even common seating areas and the lobby screamed “clean.”  No moldy looking fake flowers in these spaces!  As a mom, knowing that everything can be easily disinfected (did you see the dura-leather sofa in the suite?) is a HUGE perk.

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My kids were also totally smitten by the pool.  If you follow me on Facebook, I posted that when my kids were headed for the pool, an employee saw them and offered up a giant basket of pool noodles and floaties.  Be still my mama heart!  They would have stayed all day if we had let them!

Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek Ohio

Breakfast

I love food almost as much as I love my family #jokingnotjoking.   Breakfast is included at the hotel and it’s not just some cereal and a donut, it’s a full, hearty meal.  I always look for hotels that offer a full breakfast because it saves us money in the long run.  If all of our bellies are full we avoid extra snacking and an early lunch, which also helps with the extra calories after those maple-glazed cinnamon rolls!  Haha!

I think The Wallhouse Hotel would be a great stop for your family on your next Amish Country adventure.  If you live nearby, it would also make the perfect staycation.  Give me my own TV and some cinnamon rolls and I am SOLD!

Have you been to Amish Country before?  Have you ever done a staycation?  Maybe you’re mad for cinnamon maple rolls like me?

The Wallhouse Hotel Walnut Creek, Ohio Review

**We were provided accommodation at The Wallhouse Hotel, however, all opinions are my own**

A visit to the Newark Earthworks with kids

Some of the best travel happens right outside your door.

We’ve lived nearly on top of the Newark Earthworks for the past 7 years, yet never really fully explored them.  When some nice November weather hit us this past week, I realized that NOW was the time to visit.

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The Newark Earthworks are the largest set of geometric earthen enclosures IN THE WORLD.  The earthworks were built by the Hopewell culture between 100 B.C. and 500 A.D.   Over the years, the growth of Newark destroyed many of the earthworks (very sad), but three major pieces still survive.  We visited 2 of the 3 sites managed by the Ohio History Connection.

The Octagon Earthworks are on the grounds of the Moundbuilders Country Club.  While this is a private golf course, visitors to the earthworks can access this overlook any time of the year (just watch for flying golf balls).  The entire grounds is only open to the public four times per year (see the above link for details).

The earthworks are not considered burial mounds, researchers have concluded that they have some significance in aligning with the rising and setting of the moon.  Covering over 50 acres, the earthworks are mostly 5-6 feet high.

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The Great Circle Earthwork is nearly 12,000 feet in diameter.  The space is vast – it’s hard to see one side of the circle from the other!  Not only are the mounds about 8 feet high, there is an interior moat that’s over 5 feet deep.  It’s believed that this large circle was used for ceremonial purposes.

A small, on-site museum shows the timeline 0f the Newark Earthworks to other great milestones in history.  There are also some Native American artifacts like arrowheads and ceremonial pieces.

In more recent times, the Great Circle mounds were used as a fairgrounds until 1932.  This use of the land is what saved the earthworks from destruction.

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I would set aside 2 hours for visiting the earthworks with your children.  The Newark Earthworks are located 2.5 miles away from each other.  This is a fantastic outdoor attraction because the kids are able to run off energy while still learning about Ohio‘s Native American history.

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Where: Newark, OH – 45 minutes east of downtown Columbus

When:  Best times to visit are May- October mostly for programming.  Check the Ohio History Connection for dates of historian-led tours.

Stay:  The Doubletree by Hilton in Newark has fresh cookies on arrival, an indoor pool, and an on-site restaurant.  Plus, enjoy walking to Newark’s new Canal Market District.  It’s a great hotel for a small city.

While you’re in town:  Check out Dawes Arboretum and Blackhand Gorge.

Have you visited the Newark Earthworks?  Maybe there’s another attraction that is in your backyard which you forget to visit? I’d love to hear!

Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

My honest review

Last weekend I attended a blogging conference at Cedar Point- THE Roller Coaster Capital of the WORLD.  (See Ohio, you are important!)

I was pretty jazzed that as an attendee of the conference I was able to get a sweet rate at the Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point, as well as some tickets to use for HalloWeekend.

So off I went to Sandusky, ALL BY MYSELF, for a weekend of learning (and fun)!

My initial sight of the hotel surprised me.  Seriously?!  Wow!  The hotel was built in 1870, yet it had never made my radar as a travel-obsessed Ohioan.  #thingshavechanged.  The outside reminds you of a northeastern seaside escape.

Grounds

The parking was a breeze and the entrance to the hotel is pretty spectacular.  The lighting was dimmed, I assume for their spooky, Halloween theme, so I didn’t get any good photos.

The outside of the hotel is spotless.   I loved the clean beach, the view of the parks, and the pool/kiddee pool area.  Next year I’m definitely bringing the whole family.

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Room

The hotel just went through a major overhaul in 2015.  The rooms are fresh and clean!  I had a 2 double beds room with fantastic views of the park!  At times though, the room felt a little noisy.  I heard the screams of riders on the Top-Thrill dragster until close to midnight!  However, I just turned on the fan unit in my room and that helped drown out the noise. It was never so loud I couldn’t have slept.

Conference friends that stayed in the king suites said that most of them faced towards the beach and have a screened-in porch!  These rooms reminded me of beach vacations we’ve taken to the Southeast. I saw many families out on their screen-in patios playing cards and boardgames.  How’s that for time well spent?

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I liked that there were 2 chairs at the desk- and there was a microwave and a fridge in my room!

The bathroom was a little on the small side, but the vanity had plenty of room for make-up and hair accessories (Major A+ from this lady).  Bath & Body Works toiletries were an exciting bonus!

The only thing the room was missing was a coffeepot.  I’m sure the hotel would like you to visit the in-house Starbucks (I did!), but I could really use an in-room cup of joe before I hit the sights of others.  🙂

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The view from my room- really spectacular!

Location, Location, Location

The resort’s location really can’t be beat.  It took me under 10 minutes to walk from my room to the park entrance next to the WindSeeker.  This would be the ideal place to stay for families visiting Cedar Point that have younger children or grandma & grandpa with you, as it’s easy to get a hand stamp and go back and forth from the park.

Restaurants

The hotel has restaurants to suit every budget and lifestyle.  There is a Perkins and a Japanese steakhouse just off of the Lobby.  I dined twice at the T.G.I. Fridays because I was able to sit at the bar and be served right away.

HalloWeekend

The weekend I visited was designated as a HalloWeekend.  After 7 pm all of the creepy clowns, zombies, and ghosts make their appearance.  The area by FrontierLand is full of fog machines and it is difficult to see.  You can purchase a “No Boo” necklace for $10 for younger ones who don’t want approached by one of the costumed workers.  I think that you’ll have to know your kids— my 6 yr old would not be able to venture into FrontierLand with or without the “No Boo” necklace.

If you do have little ones, The Great Pumpkin Fest is currently taking place on Saturdays from 11am-7pm.  The Planet Snoopy area includes Trick-or-Treat, crafts, and a pumpkin patch.  I saw lots of small children with big smiles lining up with their bags of candy!

All in all, I had a fantastic weekend at the Hotel Breakers.  I can’t wait to go back next year and take the entire family!

Check Current Rates!

Have you stayed at any of the properties owned by Cedar Point?  

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*This is not a sponsored post, but may contain affiliate links.  All opinions are my own.*

Things to see in Coshocton, Ohio with your family

I grew up a measly 30 minutes from Coshocton, Ohio but it wasn’t until having children of my own that the small town called to me that it needed some more exploring.  Here are some things to see in Coshocton, Ohio with your family.

Roscoe Village

An 1830s canal town, Roscoe Village was once a bustling port (a modern day Nassau?!).  Today, with costumed interpreters and well-manicured gardens, young and old will enjoy a stroll along the brick promenades.  Living History tours are available at a cost, but you don’t have to pay admission to enter the historic street and shop or dine.

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Canal Boat – Monticello III

After learning so much about the Ohio-Erie canal on our short trip to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we were really eager to take a boat ride on a section of the old canal.  The Ohio-Erie canal functioned as a 1830s roadway, carrying goods all the way from Lake Erie to the Ohio River- It was a huge economic endeavor for the young State of Ohio – even if most of the canal was dug by Irish immigrants for 30 cents a day plus a portion of whiskey (interesting!).

The Monticello III is driven by two Percheron horses that weigh about 2300 lbs each.  One man walks behind the horses while another steers the boat from the stern.  This type of canal transportation could only go up to 40 miles a day, but realistically more like 10-15 assuming the boats would line up to go through the locks.  All of these facts were given by our kind guide.

This is the type of boat ride that’s perfect for us high-anxiety mamas.  There are no bumps, there is no speed, just a leisurely, smooth ride where our kids were still able to spot a turtle and learn from history (I mean, who can ask for more?)

Also, kids under five are FREE and a child-sized sports bottle of punch (in the gift shop) was 50 cents! Who can beat that?  #thankyouowners

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Clary Gardens

Even though much of my family lives nearby, I hadn’t heard of Clary Gardens until a friend visited.  It turns out the land to make this emerging botanical garden was only purchased in 2001, so the space is fairly new.  Just a minute drive from Roscoe Village, this is the perfect place to pack your family a picnic lunch and enjoy some time in nature.

Our kids loved the Lookout Tower and that’s where we ate our sandwiches.  I fell in love with the Theatre in the Ravine and decided that we’re either going to have a vow renewal ceremony, or I’m making sure one of my kids is married in this serene place  (#momalwayswins).   You wouldn’t need more than an hour here, unless you’re going for a special event (like my vow renewal?!).

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Things to do in Coshocton, Ohio
Jackson later told me that they were posing like “Christ the Redeemer.” We’ve definitely had Olympic fever! Maybe a trip to Rio is in the cards?

These family-friendly places are just a sampling of Coshocton.  Did I mention there’s also a pretty legitimate wine trail?  Maybe for a day that grandma has the kids?  I’ll just leave that info HERE just in case. 😉

Have you been to Coshocton?  What’s your go-to picnic meal?  Maybe you already have a spot picked for your child’s wedding?  I’d love to hear!

 

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**This post was not sponsored by any tourism board**

Dennison Railroad Depot Museum with kids

It’s not often that you visit an historical museum that is equal parts fun for the kids AND interesting for adults. Dennison Railroad Depot Museum fits the description and more.

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Dennison, Ohio is the epitome of a railroad town.  The small village lies halfway between Columbus and Pittsburgh, a perfect 100 miles from each.  This distinction made it a place born out of pure need- A steam train could go 100 miles before needing water.

One of the perks of the Railroad Depot Museum is that for kids under 7- admission is FREE.    Kids are also given a scavenger hunt to to help, Bing (the railway dog), to find all of his bones.   On top of this, they receive a dog-tag style necklace and earn a charm once they completed the hunt.   This interactive play helped my kids learn about the railway in a fun way!

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Throughout the museum there were also hands-on displays.  (Here’s Jackson acting as a newspaper boy).  There were also cranks to maneuver and lights to operate.  They could even play with some kitchen toys in the kitchen car.  This helped gain their interest, even at their young ages.

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What I didn’t realize was how big of a role the Dennison stop played in WWII.  Not only was the rail station a Salvation Army canteen, the line was located in a strategic location for troops going west for training or east for departure overseas.  Overall, the canteen (and the station) served over 1.5 million US troops.  The photographs and antiques from this time made this a nostalgic destination for my mother and I, who heard my grandma tell so many stories about the war and the role my grandfather and great uncles played in it.  We even wondered if they, too, had passed through the Dennison depot?

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Exiting the museum, there is a caboose for children to play on (it was a little rough but may be better for older kids) and also picnic tables.  While we were visiting the adjoining restaurant was closed, but it appears it has reopened.  We ate lunch at the Dennison Yard Italian Tavern where the kids meal is a build-your-own pizza!

Tips if you go:

The kid-friendly Dennison Railroad Depot Museum is only 45 minutes from Berlin, OH.  This would be a great excursion from Amish Country!  The museum is well-suited for all ages, so bring the little ones AND grandma and grandpa.

The depot is largely handicap-accessible BUT because much of the museum takes place inside train cars, we did NOT use a stroller here and I wouldn’t really recommend it.  If you have a little baby or toddler maybe a baby carrier would be best?

Dennison Railroad Depot is not just a museum, they offer many specialty events throughout the year.  The most popular with families has to be The Polar Express.  Check out their website for more info.

Homeschoolers- studying WWII history OR the role of railroads in the 20th century? This is a must-see.

Closest hotels are in New Philadelphia, Ohio.  Check current rates

Put the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum on your Ohio Bucket List!  Kids of all ages will enjoy it.

 

*This was NOT a sponsored post.  My family and I just enjoyed a fun day out.  However, post may contain affiliate links.*

Visiting Knox County, Ohio with or without kids

Don’t put Knox in a box (or Baby in the corner, for that matter)

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Knox County is often overlooked. It’s 45 + minutes from Columbus to Knox County’s seat in Mount Vernon and over 90 minutes from Cleveland.  But  don’t let the drive stop you.  You may not realize that Knox is home to a glam hotel, a hip liberal arts college (or 2) and numerous hiking and biking opportunities.  Here’s just a few things to check out for yourself:

Mt. Vernon downtown

Centered around a roundabout (or maybe more of a square-about), the Mt Vernon Square hosts a weekly farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.  Beyond that time, you’ll find antique shops, restaurants, and an excellent coffee shop.  The Happy Bean has a warm, industrial feel.  I could have stayed here all day. Can someone design my kitchen to look like this?  I digress:

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Explore further

After your caffeine jolt, head to the new Ariel-Foundation Park.  Not far from downtown, the park sits on 250 acres on the site of the former Pittsburgh Plate Glass manufacturing plant.  The landscaping is not something you’re used to- pieces of metal were refurbished to make sculptures and crush glass serves as a mulch-like substitute.  The Rastin Observation Tower is not for those afraid of heights, but 224 steps later, you’ll have a sweet view of Mount Vernon and beyond.  We’ll have to come back on a day when the weather is more cooperative!

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Further to the east towards Gambier is the Brown Family Environmental Center.  The center, run by Kenyon College, is full of educational opportunities for young and old as it includes a Butterfly garden, a 7-acre prairie, and 8 miles of hiking trails.  Our kids learned some new things in the nature center (and C petted a taxidermied squirrel- weird).  The seesaw was also a hit with my family as well as my niece and nephew.  There’s something about a natural play area to bring out the little child in the biggest of kids.

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At this point, you’re just south of Kenyon College, so pop in and check out the historic campus.  If the college was good enough for U.S. President Rutherford B Hayes and actor Paul Newman, it’s good enough for us lowly folk.  Ha!

Continue even further east (Take 229 to SR 62 E) and head towards the small (and I mean, small) town of Millwood.  Lying southeast of Millwood is a gem in the woods-Honey Run Waterfall.  The only waterfall of its kind in Knox County, and managed by the Knox County Park District, there is a hiking trail here and also access to the falls from the Kokosing River (I tried to convince the hubs this is another reason we need a kayak, but NO GO).

The rocks can be slippery, make sure the kiddos have proper footwear.  Our tennis shoes worked just fine, but swim-type shoes would be best.  The water is cold, but in the heat of summer this is a great place to cool off.

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After all of that climbing, hiking, swimming and learning- you’ll be ready to head back to Mt Vernon for a little pampering.

I spent one night at the Mount Vernon Grand Hotel and it was surprisingly luxurious for small-town Ohio.  Tiled showers, pillowtop beds, and in-room Keurig coffeemakers make you feel like you’re in a big city boutique.  Mr. YT gave me a night away for Mother’s Day (good job!!), so I was here sans kids, but I did see a baby and some tweens in the breakfast room.  That said, my room only had a shower, so if you’re taking a baby or toddler you may want to call ahead and confirm you’ll have a tub.    If you’re not taking the kids, take the hubby and request a king bed!  Ahhh! Ha!  We might do this for our coming-soon-anniversary-date.

Need somewhere for dinner?  I dined at the Alcove Restaurant.  It’s a Mount Vernon classic- they’ve been in business over 100 years!  I filled up on one of the best cheeseburgers and slice of peanut butter pie that I’ve ever eaten (holy calories!)- and talked extensively to my Aussie waiter (then texted my husband to remind him I’m still up for a move to Oz).  The decor is a little dated, but you’re there for the food- enjoy it!

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Have you been to Knox County or Mount Vernon, Ohio?  What’s your favorite hiking spot or restaurant?

 

*This is not a sponsored post byt may contain affiliate links*

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5 free things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids

Columbus, Ohio is a great city for young families because it has to cater to its own demographics!  Those aged 25-34 make up 17% of the city’s population, so you know that where there are young couples, there are usually young children!  

Columbus boasts of its diverse neighborhoods, great festivals, and a love for the arts.  However, concerts and festivals can end up costing a family a lot of money!  I’ve compiled a list of 5 FREE things you can do to enjoy this city with your kids, without spending any of your hard-earned cash.

#1  Take a Walk Through Historic German Village

German Village is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Largely settled by German immigrants, this area  of Columbus became heavily populated between 1840 and 1914- It was a place where German was spoken and streets and landmarks were named after Germany and its people.  

After a long period of decline,brought on by anti-German sentiment during the First World War and the closing of local breweries during Prohibition, restoration began in the 1960s.

What you’ll experience now is brick, tree-lined streets and small cafes and restaurants (and also, a Starbucks!).  

If your children are older, this may be a great place to take them when they’re learning about WWI.  For our young children, we focused on enjoying the quaint streets and feeling like we’d stepped in Europe when we were only 40 minutes from home.

German Village- 5 Free Things to do in Columbus

#2  Enjoy Columbus’ many parks

Columbus has many grassy spaces reserved for playing, picnicking, or taking a leisurely wander.  Topiary Park is just east of downtown, yet you’ll feel miles away from the city, like you stepped into a life-sized Monet painting. The space is great for reading a book while the baby sleeps or watching the older ones throw a frisbee.  

Schiller Park in the aforementioned German Village has a nice playground to keep little and big kids busy while you enjoy the architecture of the stately brick homes that surround the park.

 Columbus also has plenty of MetroParks spread throughout the many suburbs of the city.  The closest one to downtown is Scioto Audubon.  Located on the banks of the Scioto River, older children and teenagers will enjoy the obstacle course or outdoor rock climbing wall.

Topiary Park - 5 free things to do in Columbus with kids

#3  Tour Ohio’s Statehouse

Ohio’s state capital building was completed in 1861 and has a wild past as to how it came to completion  (including prison labor!).  Free tours are offered daily.  What a great way to teach your children state AND national history.  There’s also a museum, gift shop, and cafe.


#4  Enjoy the Columbus Commons on a Friday during summer

The Columbus Commons is new green space created after the City Center mall was torn down.  This area not only hosts concerts, it also provides a free place to spend your summer Friday lunch hour.  Each Friday from 10-1 is Commons for Kids.  Whirl around on the Carousel, jump in the bounce house, or do craft and art projects provided by local vendors.  If you’re lucky, you may catch a visit from the traveling van of the Columbus Zoo.  

Columbus Commons- 5 free things to do in Columbus Ohio with kids

#5  Take a sensory-loving stroll through the North Market

Fresh flowers, aged cheese, and savory sweets.  Ok, so it’s free in theory but you may end up dropping a few bucks after you decide you MUST take home that bag of coffee (and maybe a few chocolates for your Mom stash).

Check out the events calendar before leaving home and remember that the Farmer’s Market takes place on Saturdays.  Located just south of the Short North district, afterward there is even more for the eye to behold by window shopping on North High Street.

5 Free things to do in Columbus Ohio with kids

I hope these 5 places urge you to explore more of Cbus.  Have you been to any?  Maybe you have more to add to the list?

Staying overnight in Columbus? Check out the Courtyard by Marriott or the Doubletree Suites by Hilton.

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5 Favorite Spots within Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park did not disappoint.  Since we live in Central Ohio, we’ve frequented Hocking Hills, but were eager to explore somewhere new.

Only established in 2000, Cuyahoga Valley National Park lies between two of Ohio’s largest cities, Akron and Cleveland.  I think much of its appeal is that the park is easily accessible from many major roads and highways…and you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a Starbucks or McDonalds.  #Merica.  😉 It really feels like you’re in someone’s backyard, not out in the middle of nowhere.

We visited with our kids, but these 5 favorite spots at Cuyahoga Valley National Park could work for old and young:

Deep Lock Quarry

Located within the National Park jurisdiction, but managed by the Summit Metro Parks, Deep Lock Quarry is named because the park contains the deepest lock on the Ohio-Erie canal.  The early quarry provided rocks for the canal locks, later this sandstone was used to make millstones to remove the outer hulls of oats (i.e. Quaker Oats).  I’m a sucker for history, so I enjoyed the walk even more thinking about how things would have been back when the canal and the milling were open for business.  We did use our stroller on the trail, but we only walked back to the quarry steps and turned around, we didn’t make the full loop.

The Deep Lock Quarry park runs right next to the Towpath Trail, however, no bikes are permitted on the Quarry Trail.

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Virginia Kendall State Park Historic District aka The Ledges

Southeast of Deep Lock Quarry is The Ledges.  Oh my, this was my favorite of the favorites.  If you’re looking for a place to wow the kids or overseas visitors, I would take them here.  The little ones were sleeping so my husband stayed back and Jackson and I did a shortened version of the trail.  So worth it!  The Civilian Conservation Corp did much of the works here in the 1930s and the way they made things blend into nature- I swooned over this sandstone staircase.

Favorite Spots Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Kids (and adults) will love exploring the moss-covered rocks and ancient rock formations.  I felt transported to somewhere mysterious like Angkor Wat, the jungles of far-off lands seemingly placed in Northeast Ohio.

Favorite Spots Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Perspective.

Boston Store Visitor Center/Blue Hen Falls/Brandywine Falls

Ok, so this is technically three areas, not one, but they are all within a short drive.

We began our first day at the Boston Store Visitor Center.  The Center will provide you with a park map, Rangers are on staff to answer questions, and they have a small display on some of the Ohio-Erie Canal history (a better one is at the Canal Observation Center).  From the Boston Store to Blue Hen Falls is a short drive and the Blue Hen Falls hike is less than one mile.  This trail is hilly and unpaved, but you could do it with a jogging-type stroller.  I saw a woman push her son in a wheelchair (you go, momma).

Blue Hen Falls isn’t massive, but it’s pretty.  There’s a park bench overlooking the waterfall and if I didn’t have three kids – one trying to convince me to hike down into the falls, one trying to jump off every rock in the vicinity, and one trying to climb the barrier fence- I’d totally sit here and contemplate life.  Ha!

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Blue Hen Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next is the park’s showstopper, Brandywine Falls.  With a 60 foot drop, Brandywine is the second largest waterfall in Ohio.  This area was chockablock full of tourists, but still worth the stop.  My favorite part was the walkway TO the falls- the boardwalk is suspended from the stone cliffs.

Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Canal Exploration Center

The name gives it away, but this is the spot along the Towpath Trail where you can stop and learn all about the Ohio-Erie Canalway.  I’ve visited old locks at places like Blackhand Gorge in Licking County, yet this museum helped me realize how absolutely NOTHING I understood about the canal, how the locks worked, or even the role of the canal in shipping goods from NYC all the way to the Mississippi River.  Waa waaa.

We made it a point to stop in during a lock demonstration, and they even let our boys (and man) help out.  Check the National Park Service event guide to see when these demonstrations are happening- the volunteers do a fantastic job!

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The lesson may have been lost on Jackson, who thought the dots on Buffalo, Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, and New Orleans were meant to mark the Bills, Browns, Bengals, Giants, and Saints. Ha!

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Bedford Reservation

Last on my list of favorite spots is Bedford Reservation which is managed by the Cleveland Metroparks.  Our family hiked the short route to Bridal Veil falls and also visited the overlook to Tinkers Creek Gorge.  This was an easily hike for the kids as the way to the Creek is a large wooden staircase, not as steep hill.  That said though, leave the stroller behind!  It was difficult to see much from the Overlook, as every tree is full of green foliage.  I’d make a point to come here in October and enjoy the fall colors.

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Get thyself to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Grab some water bottles, some good shoes, and take the kids or your grandma.  You won’t regret it.

More info:

As noted, most of these areas would be difficult with a stroller because of the rough terrain or numerous stairs.  Try taking a hiking backpack.  We did use the stroller at the Canal Observation Center because it provided some shade and rest during the Lock Demonstration.

You could do most of these highlights in one day.  Because of the ages of our kids and our driving time of 2 hours, we broke our visit into two days and stayed one night in the Akron area at the Residence Inn by Marriott Fairlawn.

Residence Inn by Marriott Akron Fairlawn

We love Residence Inns because they have a separate bedroom and living area and offer a free hot breakfast.

The Towpath Trail runs through the heart of CVNP and is a biker’s dream.  Bikes can be rented in Peninsula and can also be taken on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park website HERE

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