Touring Lafayette Cemetery and the Garden District of New Orleans

Plus tips for traveling with children

When planning our trip to New Orleans, I was most excited to read about Lafayette Cemetery and the Garden District.  The architecture of antebellum homes coupled with one of the city’s oldest cemeteries made my traveling heart giddy!

Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans

Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans

(Some background: When I was a young girl my dad started selling monuments (i.e. tombstones).  On our travels, we went through just about EVERY CEMETERY known to man.  While this was an annoying chore as a kid, it’s turned into a love for cemeteries and the history that can be found by visiting them.)

Lafayette Cemetery is no exception! I learned so many new things from our tour guide, Val, from Save Our Cemeteries. For instance- At one time, Lafayette Cemetery was the only non-denominational cemetery in New Orleans.  It was actually illegal to be anything BUT Catholic in New Orleans until the US purchased Louisiana through the Louisiana Purchase!


One thing that is striking about this cemetery is the large family tombs.  Unlike most mausoleums in our area that hold 2 adults, over 75% of the tombs in Lafayette Cemetery are family or societal tombs.  Val explained that when a new person needs to be added to the tomb, the remains inside the last coffin are removed and bagged and then the recently deceased’s coffin is placed in a tomb.  Hearing this was a little morbid, but because the cemetery is so old, this only needs to be done once or twice a year.

Our Lafayette Cemetery tour took just over an hour, and while you are free to roam the cemetery without a guide, I’m so glad we were being led by someone who knew all the history.  Also, Save Our Cemeteries is a non-profit organization and Val was able to point out some of the restorations that happen because of visitors (like us) paying for volunteer-led tours.Lafayette Cemetery New Orleans

Before & after touring Lafayette Cemetery, you’ll want to spend some time exploring the Garden District.  The Garden District was once part of a Livaudais Plantation.  Originally the lots were more spacious and surrounded by gardens, however as the city grew, homeowners sold off extra parcels.   This area has been used in many Hollywood movies, and is now home to movie stars such as Nicholas Cage and Sandra Bullock  (I was looking, but never spotted them. Ha!)

We took the the Saint Charles streetcar to get from the French Quarter to the Garden District.  All day streetcar passes are only $3/per person so for $15 our family was set!  New Orleans gets props for having affordable, kid-friendly public transportation.

You can get a self-guided walking map HERE.

After our cemetery tour and the subsequent picking out of our retirement home, we headed towards Magazine Street.  Val had tipped us off to the kid-friendly Joey K’s, a restaurant once featured on the Food Network.  We chose sidewalk seating and I appreciated that the children’s menu had things like spaghetti and peanut butter & jelly! I prefer my kids eating these over the ever-present hot dog.

I chose the fried green tomatoes with shrimp and it was the perfect bit of southern cuisine.  I left feeling full and happy.

Joey K's, The Garden District, New Orleans

If you’re kids aren’t having a post-lunch meltdown,  take some time to peruse the unique stores on Magazine Street.  I saw many that I would have liked to visit if we’d had more time.  Instead, we chose to weave through the shaded streets of the Garden District homes and find our way back to the streetcar.

The Garden District New Orleans

The Garden District New Orleans

Tips for families:

  1. If you need a take-out option for dinner, we had Magazine Pizza, not once, but TWICE, on our visit. Magazine Pizza’s crust was more like a pretzel bun.  Yummo!  Dinner time with kids is hard and they deliver to hotels!
  2. We took our double umbrella stroller with us and it served it’s purpose, but it was a bit awkward to push through the lafayette cemetery and over some of the older sidewalks in the Garden District. If you have only one child, a jogging-type stroller would be better.
  3. A previous hurricane took out most of the trees in Lafayette Cemetery.  This means there is little to no shade.  Pack lots of sunscreen (I forgot)- or you’ll end up paying $4 for a 1 oz. tube at a convenience store.  i.e. Learn from my mistakes
  4. Pack water. Heat + lots of walking means you’re going to be thirsty.  We refilled the same water bottles each night and kept them in our hotel fridge.  Saves $$ and the environment.
  5. Save Our Cemeteries has tours at 10:30 am and 1 pm.  I’d recommend the 10:30 (this is the one we did).  When we left the cemetery it was as if the Garden District had all the tour buses arrive and it was much busier in the area than it had been on our way in.  Plus, you won’t have the afternoon sun.

Have you been to New Orleans or the Garden District? 

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The Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery- New Orleans
The Garden District and Lafayette Cemetery- New Orleans


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Planning a family-friendly getaway to Petoskey, Michigan

I’ve been eager to visit Northern Michigan for the past few years and it just hasn’t fit into our schedule.  However, I’ve started planning a getaway to the Petoskey area, in hopes that once I have it all planned out, getting it on the calendar won’t be so difficult.  Here are some of my ideas for a family-friendly weekend getaway to Petoskey, Michigan.

Petoskey, Michigan is located 35 miles south of Mackinaw City.  Petoskey lies on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, and is a 6 hour and 20 minute drive from my home in Ohio.  Our family enjoys outdoor pursuits, walking and hiking tours, and history that can be geared towards little minds.  All of the attractions I’ve found will suit our young family.

Things to do in the Petoskey area

Pond Hill Farm – The farm contains a petting zoo, hiking trails leading to a view of Lake Michigan, and a winery & brewery.  If that doesn’t make everyone in the family happy, I don’t know what will!

Harbor Springs – located directly on Little Traverse Bay, Harbor Springs includes many dining and shopping options as well as the popular drive, M-119 Tunnel of Trees.

Petoskey – This historic town has over 400 homes on the National Register.  I’d like to stroll around (literally, with the stroller) and enjoy the architecture.  If we get tired, Petoskey also offers a streetcar.

Boat Trip to Beaver Island – Beaver Island is known as America’s Emerald Isle. It’s a place to relax with the kids, enjoy the crystal clear water, and view 2 lighthouses.  The ferry ride is free for children under 4.

Hitting the Beach at Petoskey State Park–  This is the place to sunbathe and swim, but it’s also listed as a location to search out the famed Petoskey Stone.  The Petoskey Stone is a fossilized form of coral, and it’s Michigan’s State Stone.  I’d have my boys hooked on this “treasure hunt.”

A Petoskey Stone

Lavender Hill Farm – I’ve been to a Lavender Farm outside of Melbourne, Australia, but we just missed the bloom.  It appears that the bloom in Michigan happens in July.  On summer Fridays, they celebrate “Fridays on the Farm” with kids crafts, yoga, and more!

Rainy Day Ideas for the Petoskey area

Raven Hill Discovery Center – This is a place for families to explore science, history, and art.  The second Saturday of each month the Center is free.

Little Traverse Historical Museum – I love local museums because you really get a feel for the community and how it all began.  The Little Traverse Historical Museum is located in an restored train depot, right on the shores of the bay.  Did you know that Ernest Hemingway spent much of his life in this area?  The museum has an entire exhibit dedicated to him.

Family-friendly accommodation in the Petoskey area

Elvyn Lea Lodge is a  20-room lodge that can be used for retreats and business gatherings.  However, single rooms can also be booked for families visiting the Petoskey area. The resort has two lounges and over 44 acres brimming with hiking trails!  My kids would love the rooms with bunk beds.

I’ll also have my eye on the Boyne Highlands Resort.  A friend of mine stayed there and they have large suites that would comfortably fit our entire crew. The hotel is a ski resort in the winter, so summer rates are affordable.  Boyne Highlands Resort is located in Harbor Springs.

All in all, the Petoskey, Michigan area appears to be more than just a quick family-friendly getaway.  There’s enough to do for an entire week.  I’m hoping we can travel to Northern Michigan this summer!

Have you been to the Petoskey region?  What’s your favorite attraction?

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A visit to Avery Island- the home of Tabasco

What happens when an epic storm system ruins your plans of gallivanting around plantations like a Southern Belle, er, Midwesterner?  And your husband says, “Well, is there anything to the west of us?  Anything we could go see?” And then he hears the two words that men (and women) around the world find as sweet nothings… TABASCO SAUCE?

Even if our morning started with a tornado warning and a panic stricken wife, Mr. Yoder Toter ended his day in pure bliss of Tabasco taste-testing goodness.   Not one moment before that sad morning in a hotel in Gonzales, LA, did we even know that the home of Tabasco Sauce was in the low-lying lands of Avery Island, Louisiana.  But we went (through the flood waters) and we conquered.

Avery Island, the home of Tabasco, is approximately 140 miles west of New Orleans.  Surrounded by marsh, Avery Island actually sits on a salt dome- it’s not a true island, but arriving over a flooded waterway sure made it feel like one.  The original red Tabasco was created here in the late 1860s by Edmund McIlhenny and the company has not moved!

Once pulling into the Tabasco homestead, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time 100 years, as the buildings & trees add to the feeling of the old south.

Admission to the Tabasco Museum & Factory on Avery Island is very affordable!  I believe we paid $5.50 for four of us, our youngest was free.  It’s not many times you can experience something as a family of 5 for under $25.

The Tabasco Museum tells the story of Tabasco.  From the earliest settlement of Avery Island, to the modern day changes the McIlhenny family have made.  I enjoyed seeing how Tabasco products have done all over the world and appeared in advertisements.  My favorite was this Darth Vader piece:

After visiting the Museum, there is a self-guided tour through the grounds, easily followed by numbered signs.  The most interesting for my husband and myself was the barrel house.  The peppers are turned into mash and placed in white oak barrels and aged for THREE YEARS.  Seeing so many barrels of pepper mash just waiting to be turned into sauce, showed the great quantity of Tabasco that is produced in this small town.

Unfortunately, because we visited on a Sunday, we were unable to see the factory in motion. The bottling line is only open Monday-Thursday, so plan your visit to Avery Island accordingly.

Probably the best part of the tour, for me, was the Tabasco Country Store!  Tabasco ice cream!  Tabasco suckers!  Tabasco coffee mugs!  (Said just like Yogurt from Spaceballs, lol).  I was intrigued by just how many things can be flavored using a few hot peppers, and my husband liked taste-tasting all of the many different sauces.

We only wished we weren’t traveling home by air, as the products are priced reasonably.  Don’t worry though- we brought home a bottle of Mr YT’s favorite- wrapped within the kids (deflated) pool floaties!  No clothes were injured in this attempt.

 

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Tips for if you go:

We had our double stroller (side by side) with us, but we may not have needed it since our kids are a bit older.  If you do take a stroller, I’d try to take a single because the doorways and hallways are a little tight.

The closest town with numerous lodging possibilities would be Lafayetta, LA.  I usually recommend the Homewood Suites or the Fairfield Inn and Suites.   You can check Current Rates HERE.

Plan on spending 2 hours on JUST Avery Island and the TABASCO tour.  If you wish to tour the adjacent Jungle Gardens, I’d add even more time.  We could not visit Jungle Gardens due to flooding.

So tell me, do you love Tabasco products?  Ever had spicy ice cream?  

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Little Buckeye Children’s Museum – Mansfield, Ohio

A member’s review + tips for if you go

Back in December, my mom was asking me what kind of Christmas present she could get for my kids.  Knowing we were relocating to Mansfield right after Christmas, I thought that  money towards a family membership to the Buckeye Children’s Museum would be just the ticket (pun intended) to keeping the kids occupied on dreary Ohio days!

We’ve been three times so far, and it’s safe to say that this may be the most well-loved Christmas present!  The kids are always asking to go back!

My children are currently 3, 5, and 7; and they all stay highly engaged throughout our visits and beg to stay longer.  When we purchased the membership, I worried that my 7 year old would tire of the museum, but he enjoys playing with his younger siblings and has never complained of boredom.  There are exhibits that older children may especially appreciate, such as the model train and k’nex station.

As a mom, I appreciate that although the space is large and the exhibits are plentiful, it’s fairly easy for me to watch my children even if they are at separate stations.  A tip for caregivers: if you’re starting to get weary from all the excitement, ask your children or grandchildren to put on a special play for you.  Sit back in the restored theatre seats with some (fake) popcorn and watch your little thespians.

If you’re coming from out of town, you may also want to pack a spare pair of pants (or shoes), for your budding scientists.  The water table is  a HUGE hit, but we’ve left with a wet shoe more than once.  I am thankful the museum provides these awesome bibs to keep their shirts dry.  There are restrooms on both floors for your convenience.

From an imaginary camping adventure to a McDonald’s drive-thru (by Cozy Coupe), there’s make-believe play for all ages.  On this last visit my eldest child taught the younger ones their letters and numbers in the one-room schoolhouse.

How fun is this sensory room?  FYI: This is the only space that they ask that you remove your shoes.

One of the things I love most about the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is seeing how my kids interact with each other and play together throughout each exhibit.  They share their enthusiasm and model to each other what they are learning.



A family membership at the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is currently $100.  For a family of 5, it would only take 2.5 visits to pay for the membership.  This is one investment I can endorse!  Not only are you allowing your child to engage in a play – the BEST type of education- but you’re also investing in a small city in Ohio.

NOTE: There is no parking lot for the museum.  On-street parking is a 2-hour limit meter.  Pack your quarters and set your timer!  Otherwise, we park in the free public parking, which is accessed off of Diamond Street, just south of 4th Street.  It’s a one block walk from there.

Between Labor Day & Memorial Day, the museum is open Wednesdays- Sundays.  We prefer to visit on Wednesdays because it’s typically very quiet!  Check their calendar for special events.

Hotels in Mansfield

** This was NOT a sponsored post, our family just enjoys the museum and I want to provide my readers with as much info as possible.  May contain affiliate links**

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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?  

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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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The Good Zoo is a good zoo for children

I’d never heard of Good Zoo until I read a blog (ahem:  that’s your warning to keep reading blogs!) where the writer shared about the zoo and their Australian animals.

Knowing we’d yet to cross zoo off of our Summer Bucket List AND being a complete sucker for the word Australia, I figured that it’d be as good as time as ever (see what I did there?) to make a roadtrip stop at a newfound destination.

For most of us Ohioans, Oglebay is a household word.  The 1,700 acre resort just outside of Wheeling, West Virginia offers summer and winter activities and is well-known for it’s Christmas Festival of Lights.

We arrived just around lunch time and purchased our tickets.  The zoo is priced for families at just $33 for our entire brood (parking was free + C was free because she is under 3).

We packed a picnic lunch and had no problem entering the zoo with our sandwiches and drinks.  It appeared as though they do offer a lunch counter, but it was not open on the day we visited.  We were competing with no one to get picnic table space, I’m not sure what a normal weekend is like, but a Friday while school is in session was definitely quiet.

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I loved this zoo because it’s highly walkable for little kids.  We had the double stroller with us, but for our ages of kids we wouldn’t have required it.  And because the zoo is in a park-like and hilly setting, many of the areas and walkways were shaded!  (Thank you, thank you- no Coppertone required)!

The zoo offers only 50 species of animals, but what I enjoyed about it was you could get through it in a day and didn’t feel rushed to get from one thing to the next.  We all know that the attention span of a 2 and 4 year old is about 2 hours TOPS, and we were able to fully see the zoo (and eat lunch) in about that timeframe.

The Australian area has a gated space where you can walk in with the kangaroos.  The adjoined Lorikeet Landing was something I was really looking forward to, but it wasn’t open on our visit.  Waaa.

The zoo also has cheetahs and farm animals and a red panda!  We’ve been learning about the continents in homeschool and this trip helped cement some of those geography concepts while also reminding our kids what kind of fun (and funny) animals live in different parts of the world.

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Me:  “So kids, what was your favorite part of the zoo?”

J:  The train…and the playground

O: The hills- and those like monkeys things.  (the tamarins)

C:  The elephants!!!  (there weren’t any elephants!)

Another day of making memories with our kids!  The Good Zoo was good to us.

 

What’s your favorite zoo?

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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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