Finding Hemlock Falls – A hidden waterfall of Ohio

My introduction to Hemlock Falls came from an Instagram post.  Ever since then, I’ve been scheming a time and place to see this waterfall.

While Hemlock Falls is located NEAR Mohican State Park, it’s actually on private property managed by the Mohican School in the Out-of-doors.  Eventually the Falls will be on the new B & O Trail as the land was recently purchased by the Mohican Watershed Conservancy.

What does that mean for the casual traveler like me? You must call and get permission to access the site.  Don’t just show up!

The Mohican Outdoor School has field trip groups on many days and the first time I called they said we could not visit.  If you’re coming from out of town, you can call and set up a time in advance, but since we live close-by I just called on a particularly nice day to see if the site was available.

The Falls are actually across the street from the School.  My directions were to go to the school first and check-in.  Don’t do like I did and mistake someone’s home for the office!  Oye!  The school office is actually located just below the visitor parking area.  If you see a dumpster, you’re on the right track (how welcoming)!  The director I spoke with (after opening the door to her personal home), said they are working on getting better signage.  Thank you and amen. 🙂

After you park near the Field Trip Center (across the road from the school), you will need to follow signs that are located on tall poles or trees.  They aren’t the easiest to find!

We actually got off of the trail at one part and needed to cross the creek on foot to get back on the trail.  There are no blazes.

Then, once we got to the bridge where you view the falls, there were signs saying the trail we were on was actually closed.  Uhhh???

Nonetheless, the site of a 60+ foot waterfall that’s not heavily visited like Big Lyon Falls at Mohican or Ash Cave in Hocking Hills, made the momentary stress of finding the falls dissipate.

Normally I would have turned around, but I thought I should honor the sign.  So on the way back we followed signs for the “main trail” and we ended up about 300 yards down the road from our van.  Hmmmm.

If you go, I’d ask for very clear directions from the Outdoor School.  I would not have been concerned except I was alone with my three kids AND there is no cell phone reception in this area.  That’s not the best combination!

The Hemlock Falls trail is slippery when muddy, so wear your boots!  Also, our youngest is 3 and she was able to manage the trail with a little help from me.  I wouldn’t bring much younger children unless you have them in a hiking carrier.  It’s very hilly.

The # to call for Mohican School of Outdoors:  419-938-6671

Hemlock Falls is located approximately 25 minutes south of Mansfield, OH or 30 minutes north of Mount Vernon, OH.

Where to stay:  I loved my stay at the Mount Vernon Grand, a closer option would be the Hampton or Best Western on the south side of Mansfield.

Have you been to Hemlock Falls? 

 

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

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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!

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A walking tour of Pittsburgh – with kids

{Bus and Subway is optional}

Andrew Carnegie said, “Pittsburgh entered the core of my heart when I was a boy and cannot be torn out.”

It only takes a foot tour of downtown Pittsburgh to fall in love with the architecture, the city scape, and the river views.  A city that has survived the rise and fall of steel is one that charmed our young family on our weekend stay. My hope is that I can give you a taste of this modern city, one that surprised me.

A graphic designer I am NOT, but here is a map of the route our family took (but I corrected it to make better use of the subway and bus- we walked a LOT)

pgh-mapThe Allegheny County Courthouse was a great place for us to begin because it was a brief walk from our room at the Doubletree by Hilton.  Designed by H.H. Richardson, one of the most prominent American architects of the late 19th century, the courthouse reminded me of a building you’d see in London or Oxford, not in a midwestern city.  Tours are provided of the interior during weekdays, but we arrive until Friday evening.

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Take a glance northeast and you can’t help but see the US Steel Building.  The 64-story tower is Pittsburgh‘s tallest building- and the COR-TEN steel used on the exterior causes the rusty color.

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Next up is the City-County Building.  Here you’ll find a statue of Richard Caliguiri, who was Pittsburgh’s mayor from 1977 until his death in 1988.  They decided to put his statue on the steps of this building because he was often seen here talking to people.  The entry way to this building really is breathtaking.  Don’t forget to look up!

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If you position yourself to walk down Forbes Ave to the west, you’ll eventually run into Market Square.  This area was just renovated in 2011 and contains one of Pittsburgh’s most noteworthy dining locales, Primanti Brothers.  Primanti Brothers has been in business since the 1930s and now has 17 locations all over the city of Pittsburgh.  They are famous for appearing on Man v. Food because of the way they stack their coleslaw and french fries ON the sandwich.  I’ll be honest, my husband and I weren’t impressed with the Pittsburgher (their #2 best seller- after beer), but I’ve heard good things about the sandwiches made from cold cut meats.  So, maybe we should give it another go?  I see there are now 3 Ohio locations (no way!)

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When you’re on this corner by Primantis you follow a alleyway that opens to the PPG place.  PPG Place is a 6 city block complex and obelisk.  The PPG buildings have over 231 glass spires all covered in mirror glass.  The spires are to represent the way three rivers come together at Pittsburgh.  In the winter, this area houses an outdoor skating rink, and in the summer it’s the perfect place for children to cool off in the fountains.  Our boys loved the rhythm of the fountains, it was definitely a highlight!

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From here I’d recommend heading towards the Gateway Metro Stop- but instead getting on a bus and taking it to W Carson/Duquesne Incline.  Buses in the city cost $2.50 per adult and we’re free for our kids.  $5 to save your legs (and let your Primanti Bros settle)!

The Duquesne Incline is a must-do for families staying in Pittsburgh.  There are actually two inclines, the Monongahela and the Duquesne, but I’d researched that the Duquesne offers the better views. Oh, it did not disappoint.  The trip up was a little hairy.  I may or may not have told my husband to stop pointing out how old the incline was or how rotten the boards were (aaahh), but the view was so so worth it.  Also, total cost- $12.50.  (Adults were $5 each, our 6 yr old was $2.50 roundtrip).  You won’t find anything else this cheap in Pittsburgh.

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Now it’s time to burn off your Primantis so when exiting the Incline, cross the road and walk towards the Fort Pitt Bridge back into the city.  Pittsburgh is truly a city of bridges and crosses one of these giants makes you appreciate the city a little more (and maybe understand all the traffic drama we had getting into the city?).

After crossing the bridge, take the ramp down into Point State Park.  This area is designated as a National Historic Landmark.  The land was considered a strategic location in the Ohio Valley.  The French built a fort here.  The English built a fort here.  The Native Americans were here first (obviously).  The park was renovated in 2006 and now contains an outline of Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt into the grassy area.  Our boys loved the fountain, especially when the wind would pick up and we’d all get a good soaking!  It really is a pretty area.  If we weren’t running after 3 little ones, I think Mr Yoder Toter and I would lay around on a blanket and… read a book (;)).

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After you enjoy the park (and maybe take a nap), work your way back to the Gateway Metro Stop.  From here you can take a free subway ride to the North Shore.  It will save you more walking– and it’s FREE.  We used the T to get from our Steel Plaza stop to the North Shore. On a Sunday morning it was nearly vacant, so much so that at first we worried it was closed!

Geek alert- Forget Heinz Field and PNC Park, I wanted to see Mr. Rogers.  The 2009 Sculpture and Arch is called “Tribute to Children” and now takes the place of where a bridge was removed.  Mr. Fred Rogers was from nearby LaTrobe, PA. There’s even a speaker in the arch playing music and stories from Mr. Rogers.  I wish I could put a heart eye emoji, I definitely got verklempt when it started playing, “It’s you I like.

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I can’t think of a better way to end your evening in Pittsburgh than walking by PNC Park when there is an evening home game.  I’m a sucker for the sounds and smells of the ballpark, anyhow, and this is one of the best.  Even better if you pay for admission and can watch the sights of the city as the sun fades.

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If you get back to the Wood Street Metro stop you could either continue walking to your hotel or take the subway to the nearest location.

If you go:

Stay

We enjoyed our stay at the Doubletree by Hilton.  The room was huge and the beds were comfortable for the cost.  If you’re budget allows, I’d stay somewhere closer to Market Square that includes breakfast, like the Embassy Suites or Hilton Garden Inn.

Eat

We had a yummy pizza dinner at Milano’s on 6th Street.  The place was casual and affordable, perfect for kids.  Try the garlic knots!

With the kids

This was another trip that proved to us that the best $100 we ever spent was this lightweight, affordable, double umbrella stroller.  It says it’s only rated for 40 lbs per seat but we can easily push our 46 lb, 6-yr-old (plus another kiddo) and the thing is still in one piece!  It also made it to Australia and back in the underside of the plane!

 

Much of the information on Pittsburgh’s architecture and art came from a FREE downloadable guide provided by the Pittsburgh Art Council.  You can find that guide HERE.

Have you ever been to Pittsburgh?  Maybe you have an emotional soft spot for Mr. Rogers?  What’s your opinion on Primanti Bros?

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*This is not a sponsored post.  All opinions are my own*

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Visiting historic Coshocton, Ohio with the family

I grew up a measly 30 minutes from Coshocton, Ohio but it wasn’t until having children of my own that the small, historic town really called to me that it needed some more exploring.

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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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**

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4 great {family} beaches near Fort Myers, Florida

Fort Myers was a place I’d never really dreamed of or hoped to visit.  Now I want to move there (no joke)!  After a great deal using points on nonstop flights to Southwest Florida, I found myself researching a place I knew little about yet planned to travel there with our three small children.

 Two themes I kept finding in my research were “great beaches” and “great sunsets.” I made it my goal to experience the best of both! That said, here are 4 great family beaches to check out when  you find yourself in Fort Myers, Florida.

 

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Fort Myers Beach

Well, of course!  Fort Myers Beach felt like a mix of Bob Marley and Bob Dole!  Ha!  The northern end of the island is home to numerous bars and restaurants that let you dine or drink beachside.  The southern end of the island is mostly home to condos and quiet beaches.  North or south, a sunset view is on the horizon (literally) and you’ll be glad you’ll pulled up a chair.  

While Sanibel gets noted for a shellers dream, I found numerous sand dollars on Fort Myers Beach that were just washed up on the shore.  Beach access points are throughout the island but they do contain metered parking and it’s $2/hour.  

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Lovers Key State Park

Lovers Key State Park is an island that received its name because it was so remote, only lovers would make the trek by boat. Now the drive to Lovers Key is just a quick jaunt south of Fort Myers Beach.  There’s so many things to do within the State Park:  hiking, birding, and kayaking, just to name a few.  We chose to spend our time on the beach!  

Lovers Key State Park charges an admission fee of $8 per car.  From the main parking area you can walk to mid beach or you can take a tram to the south beach.  Our family chose to take the 15-minute tram ride.  The south beach contains a concession stand and restrooms.  From there you can walk over 2 miles of unspoiled beach.  

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Lovers Key State Park is a quiet spot for the family.

 

Sanibel Island

Sanibel Island was listed in Patricia Schultz’s 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.  Driving into Sanibel, you’ll quickly understand why.  The island has strict zoning laws so it feels much more secluded than it is- couple that with white sand beaches and millions of seashells and you have a place that the entire family will enjoy- young or old.

 We parked near the Sanibel Lighthouse and walked along the bay.  The bay contains the same beautiful beach but is nearly wave-free, making it great for the little ones.  This area also is home to a short fishing pier.  If you’re looking for a beach that is away from the high-rises and nightlife, you may consider staying on Sanibel Island!

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The view of the bridge leading you onto secluded Sanibel Island.

 

Naples Beach

While Naples is known for its designer shopping outlets and historical fishing pier, it should also be known for its 7 miles of white sand beach. Naples is a known for its wealth, and the well-kept beaches are a testimony to this.  There is public access at many different points, but entering at Lowdermilk Park gives you access to two playgrounds and sand volleyball courts, plus concession stands and restrooms.  You’ll have to pay a meter, but you’re family will be happy to have more than just the beach available!

What’s your family’s favorite beach near Fort Myers, Florida?  Any tips you would add?

For your continued reading:  3 Family-Friendly Places to View Wildlife in Southwest Florida

 

**This is not a sponsored post**


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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:

Dennison 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 kids 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.

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.*


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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 family-friendly places to enjoy the beauty of Lake Erie

Lake Erie may be the smallest of the five Great Lakes, but it still contains 871 miles of shoreline for families to enjoy!  Ohio is blessed to have this body of water as our northern border, and here are 5 family-friendly places in Ohio to enjoy all that Lake Erie has to offer.

Cedar Point – Sandusky, OH

Older children will think you’re the best mom or dad around when you spend some time whizzing down roller coasters right on “America’s Roller Coast.”  Cedar Point is known throughout the world for its tall and fast coasters– so why not spend the day enjoying the view of the sparkling waters of Lake Erie before you drop 310 feet from the Millennium Force or as you climb the first hill of the World’s Longest wing coaster, the Gatekeeper?  There’s something for all ages- and if you’re too fearful of a speedy coaster, you can see the lake just fine from the Giant Wheel.

My review of the Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

Vermilion, OH

Vermilion is a quaint, seaside community that has something for old and young alike.  Parents and grandparents will enjoy the antique and speciality shops, while younger ones will be excited by boats, the beach,  and giant root beer floats at the old soda fountain found inside the Main Street Soda Grill.  The historic downtown was settled in 1837 which makes families feel as if they are strolling through a New England settlement, not a town just 45 minutes from Cleveland.  Dad and kids can swing at Exchange Park while mom shops the afternoon away, and after dinner catch a beautiful sunset from Main Street Park (while a replica lighthouse adds to the ambiance).  Holiday Inn Vermilion

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Vermilion at sunset. Credit: Alex Tornero

Sheldon Marsh State Nature Preserve- Huron, OH

Sheldon Marsh is a playground for wildlife and bird watching.  A one-mile paved trail (great for strollers) leads you to a pristine view of Lake Erie, but don’t get too focused on making it to the beach: enjoy the cattail marsh, the chipmunks scouring for food, and the stillness of the herons before they take flight.  A shell-covered beach and peaceful view are worth the long walk.  No swimming is allowed here, but you’ll make plenty of memories just playing in the sand.

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Headlands State Park- Mentor, OH

Headlands State Park in Lake County is the perfect spot to bring a blanket and swimsuit and relax a summer day away.  The mile-long sand beach is the longest in Ohio and when the kids are bored of building castles you could drop a line in for some fishing or take a walk down the Buckeye Trail.  The Buckeye Trail is a paved, handicap accessible trail, so bring your stroller and sweat off all of the treats consumed while picnicking.  Only 40 minutes east of downtown Cleveland, the park is just a quick drive from the fast-paced city.

Marblehead Lighthouse- Marblehead, OH
Driving into Marblehead with the kids will make you think one thing “I want a few days here.”  The downtown district is full of pubs, restaurants, and craft shops, but you’ll pass it all as you head to the Lighthouse.  The Marblehead Lighthouse not only stands out for its beauty and idyllic setting, it is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on all of the Great Lakes.  Built in 1821 on the limestone shore, the 1880 Keeper’s cottage still stands and now houses a museum for the lighthouse.  You are able to climb the stairs to the top of the lighthouse, but hours are seasonal and tickets sell quickly.  Arrive early!  As if watching sailboats and barges go by isn’t enough for your kids, they can gaze longingly at Cedar Point Amusement Park- just 6 miles away.  If I didn’t convince you enough, they’ll be ready to head there next.  🙂

Hotels near Marblehead

3 marblehead alternative

Have you been to any of these destinations?  What are you adding to your Summer Bucket List?

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Summer Bucket List

The unofficial beginning of summer is only 2 weeks away!  Our family counts Memorial Day weekend as the kick-off to our Summer Bucket List even if the calendar tells me that summer isn’t until June 20.

First, I asked the boys what they thought they would like to do this summer.  They were very excited to offer up “go to the playground” and “the pool!” (if this doesn’t show the simplicity of young children, #idontknowwhatdoes).   Then I wrote out a few of my own ideas, although I am questioning my thought process behind camp in a tent?!  I never really liked tent camping BEFORE kids…we haven’t tried it yet WITH.  The memories created are what is key here!

bucket list with logo

After a long Ohio winter, and a WET spring, we’re excited to get out and explore this summer.  I like to make a Bucket List for each season.  Whether we stick to it or not, it encourages me to think outside of the box when it comes to our daily activities – i.e. we have to try to do more than sitting on the porch with the neighbors, even if it is our favorite summer hobby.

What’s on your Summer Bucket List?

Here’s a free printable copy of the list (minus my website name).

You can check out my Fall 2015 Bucket List HERE.

Or my 2016 Travel Plans List HERE.

Can you tell I like lists? 😉

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A day in Hocking Hills- with kids

When I think of clifftop vistas, cascading waterfalls and well-groomed hiking travels, my mind travels to the mountains of Virginia or Washington.  Then a still small voice hears Dorothy say, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home” and I remember that I can have all of these in just a few hours drive- in the hills of southeast Ohio.  Hocking Hills is the second-most visited place in all of Ohio, and my family traveled there a few months ago with our small children, aged 5, 3, and 1 to once again prove that hiking IS for amateurs– as long as they have a mother’s hand to hold!

Hocking Header

The Hocking Hills region is perfect for day trips from Columbus and even Cincinnati, so pack a picnic lunch and enjoy some quiet family time.  After peanut butter and jelly fingers were wiped, our first hike was the Rock House.  I hadn’t been here since college and my husband had never been.  I think this is where the saying, “ignorance is bliss” came from!  This is a steep trail and that is suspended on the side of a cliff.   Mothers of littles, this is not for the faint of heart!  

1- my first sign to be worried

The Rock House is the only true cave in the Hocking Hills region and it is located on the side of a 150-foot cliff.  Stone stairs allow you to access the cave.  Our little boys loved the echo their little voices could create, as well as the relative darkness to sneak around  (not that they could ignore their hysterical mother yelling, “stay away from the edge!”.  We were also happy to not find any bootlegger, robbers, or horse thieves in the cave, as local folklore suggests this cave used to be home to,  you’ll only need to deal with mosquitos and other tourists.

2- Rock House interior
The inside of Rock House. Blurry because I’m shouting while taking photos.

The total trail is about ½ mile but with a steep descent and ascent it may feel like more for little legs.  Bring plenty of water on a hot day, you will need it!

The kids needed a break and this mama needed a less-stressful trail, so our next stop was Ash Cave.  Ash Cave is the largest recess cave east of the Mississippi and the grandeur of it is not overlooked by children or their parents.  Ash Cave gets its name from the piles of ashes that were sitting in the cave when it was “discovered.”  It is presumed that Native Americans lived in this cave for some time and the ashes were built up from their frequent fires.  

5- spy my tiny family in Ash Cave
I spy my little family in Ash Cave.

The Ash Cave trail is only ½ mile and is fully paved and wheelchair and stroller accessible.  I’ve been here in the middle of winter and the trail is open, just slippery.  The trail begins as what appears to be a gentle walk through a hemlock forest past streams and rock walls, and then it opens to a massive cave with a rim of almost 700 feet wide and 90 feet high!

The floor of Ash Cave is sandy!  I saw a little boy here with his trucks and diggers and I was so sad that we didn’t think to bring some toys for our construction-obsessed 3 yr old!  This could be a great way to entertain your children while the adults take in the majesty of the cave.  

Ash Cave has a waterfall, but we visited on a particularly dry week and it was more of a trickle.  The boys really wanted to play in the waterhole, but they now ask that visitors do not swim or play as the area is not monitored.  

4- giant tree rock house trail

Here are my 4 top tips for Hocking Hills:

  1. Pack as much food, bug spray, water, etc as you think you will need and then add more.  The closest full service store is a WalMart and it is over 30 minutes away from the region.
  2. Stay on the trails!  The best walks for kids are the Ash Cave trail or the Conkles Hollow lower trail.  If you see the name “Rim Trail” be wary of taking small children because the cliffs are steep!  We hiked many of these trails before having kids and I didn’t even like my husband being that close to the edge!  Sadly, there are usually a few deaths in the park every year due to falls.
  3. Toilets are few and far between- and they are usually in the form of Portapotties or drop toilets.  Bring plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes- potty training just got even ickier! 😉
  4. Frozen fans, unite!  Hocking Hills is beautiful in winter, too.  We went this past January on an unseasonably warm day (50 degrees, yes!) and the kids kept asking if they would see Elsa because of the many ice formations.

 

Have you been to Hocking Hills?  What’s your favorite trail/area?  



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