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

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

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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!

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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 mosquitoes and other tourists.

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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.  

Hotels.com Destination Inspiration: Not sure where to go? You've come to the right place!

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.

The closest accommodation is in Logan, Ohio.  Check current rates here.

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



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Wahkeena Nature Preserve with Kids

This past fall a girlfriend and I packed up our kids and visited Wahkeena State Nature Preserve, the perfect day-trip for anyone in Central Ohio.  Located just south of Lancaster in Fairfield County, the Preserve is ljust on the northern edge of the Hocking Hills region.  Wahkeena is the Native American word for “Most beautiful.”  The unassuming vegetation of this area really is beautiful.

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There are 2-3 different trails at Wahkeena.  These are short in length and fairly easy for children.  Watch for the local wildlife though! #Notafanofthisguy

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There is no handicap-accessible route, so don’t plan on taking a stroller.  I carried our littlest in the hiking backpack.  This worked well except for the wetland boardwalk.  Two little boys on a moving boardwalk…hmmm…you can imagine! 😉

The Visitor Center is a must-see.  There are taxidermied animals (a little creepy), and real ones!  There are also fantastic diagrams showing how many bears, bobcats, etc have been spotted throughout Ohio.  Interesting, and a little frightening!  For ages 6-10 this would be the perfect place for a science lesson on habitats and environments.

Wahkeena visitor

The kids’ favorite part of the day was this barred owl.  He is kept at the Preserve due to an injury he sustained when he was hit by a car.  Owls are so majestic, the kids really enjoyed watching him.

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Have you been to Wahkeena Nature Preserve?  It would be a great pit stop on your way to Hocking Hills from Columbus.  I think we’ll go back in a few years once my younger kids children understand a bit more.

More information

There is no designated picnicking spot.  We packed some sandwiches and ate them in the parking lot.  Lancaster is only 15 minutes away, where you’ll find many eating out options.

Want to try another hike?  Check out Shallenberger Nature Preserve.

Wahkeena State Nature Preserve is administered by the Ohio History Connection and managed locally by the Fairfield County Historical Society.  You can see the OHS website HERE.

For a more thorough review with up-to-date hours and schedules, on of the employees of Wahkeena keeps a blog HERE.

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2016 Travel Plans

New year, new places

Continuing on with my 2016 goals, I’d like to share my travel aspirations.  The first two are for sure BOOKED, the others are wishful. 🙂  As with everything, timing and finances will play a role.  Since we’re taking a big trip to Australia to start the year, Brian’s time off will be limited – and because we have some big financial goals, travels we do take will be “beans and rice” in nature!

International

Australia

We’re crossing off a few things on the Bucket List by heading to Australia this month.  We have tickets to the Australian Open, which has been one of  Mr. Yoder Toter’s top choices…and we’ll get to spend Australia Day in Sydney (kinda like the Aussie version of July 4th except THE WIGGLES WILL BE THERE), which has always been on my Bucket List (the holiday not The Wiggles, sorry Simon).  Our trip is also rounded out by Tasmania.  We’re staying in Hobart and we’ll have four days to explore “Tassie.”  I’m thankful Richelle directed  me to this blog, Tasmania is incredible and you should go there now, or I may have missed it altogether.

Alberta, Canada

I’m so completely pumped about going to see Banff and the Canadian Rockies!  We’re not going until October – and maybe even more exciting, this trip is sans kids!!  We had some airline miles that were due to expire so I nabbed a couple seats and we’re off for a quick 4-night getaway.  The Fairmont Lake Louise has been on my Bucket List for ages, so we’ll stay a couple nights there, too.  I’m calling this our 12 year anniversary trip! 🙂

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More of Canada

The US Dollar is really strong, saving Americans about 25% on a trip to Canada.  I’m dying to see Quebec City and Montreal, but I’m not sure it’s in the cards for this year as those places would probably require a full week away.  We shall see what happens- maybe 2017?  It’s a 14-hour drive from our city, so I’ve even looked into flying to Boston and then road-tripping from there.

USA

New River Gorge, West Virginia

We’ve driven past this area probably 20 times on our way to the beach, but we’ve never made the stop.  I would like to spend a weekend and stay at Hawks Nest State Park and plus hike throughout the various state parks.

Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve had my eye on Pittsburgh thanks to the Children’s and Andy Warhol museum.  I’ve been watching for a hotel sale via Groupon or Travelzoo and maybe we’ll make an overnight trip.

Western KY/Southern IN road trip

Mr YT brought home a brochure from Marengo Caves while he was out and about in Indiana.  This National Landmark in Southern Indiana would make a nice combo with checking out the West Baden Springs Resort (Ok, maybe we won’t take the kids there).   I think the boys would also enjoy the Louisville Slugger Museum and Louisville isn’t too far across the Ohio River.  Sounds like a fun long weekend.  I think we’ll save the longer road trips for when the kids have their own iPads (#kiddingnotkidding).

 

OH-10 (by region)

Some of my favorite Aussies refer to Ohio as O.H.- 10.  Who knew that Ohio was so hard to pronounce with that sweet accent?  I digress.

Guys, gas is under $2/gallon.  They are practically GIVING IT AWAY.  There is no reason not to at least see your own state.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park-– done- May 2016!  5 Favorite Spots

Football Hall of Fame (for our 5 yr old world’s greatest football fan)

Columbus Museum of Art (they just did a revamp- haven’t been there since college).

Toledo Zoo and Oak Openings Preserve Metropark

Logan County Transportation Museum and Cedar Bog Nature Preserve

Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve

 

Have you been to any of these places?  What’s on your 2016 travel radar?

 

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