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.

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** 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.

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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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4 Free Excursions from Hobart

Have I shared enough about my deep love for Tassie yet?

 

Here’s four things we did near Hobart- and because, like us, you’ve just invested in an airline ticket to cross the Pacific, and then another one to jump the Bass Strait, these things are FREE.

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#1 Cascade Brewery 

The restaurant and gardens at Cascade Brewery are absolutely free to enter.  Now, obviously you can purchase a flight of beer or a tour of the Brewery itself, but it’s free to enjoy the backdrop of the brewery against Mt. Wellington and have a walk through the landscaped gardens.  The gardens are also a great place to let the little ones run off some energy.

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View of the restaurant from the gardens

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#2 Mt. Wellington/kunanyi

A drive up Mt. Wellington is not for those who are afraid of rolling off the side of the mountain and plunging to their death #FYIthatsme.  However, once you ascend the steep roadway, the view is worth the turmoil, and adults AND kids will enjoy the view from the (safe and secure) boardwalks.  While Mt. Wellington looms over Hobart and seems so close to the downtown, the drive from Hobart takes 30+ minutes through all of the hairpin turns and elevation changes.  Entrance is free.  Sanity lost watching your husband and dad take your boys to climb to the Pinnacle is also free of charge.

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#3 Richmond

Approximately 30 minutes outside of Hobart, Richmond is like stepping back in Tasmanian time.  The oldest bridge in Australia is here, as well as the oldest Australian Catholic church.  While walking around the quaint shops and strolling (or strollering, as we do) through the small town is free, spend a couple of bucks and get a treat at The Bakery Richmond.  Eclairs, and scones and meat pies – OH MY!  We tried all of their breakfast goodies and then bought an assortment of meat pies to take home for dinner (now there’s way to save some cash!)

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#4 Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

On the banks of the Derwent River just steps from Hobart, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden is a 13+ hectare delight.  We packed a picnic lunch and drove to the Gardens, which provided a few free hours of entertainment.  The views of the Derwent along with the manicured gardens pleased both young and old.  My favorite things were all the local Australian flora (I was already getting homesick and we hadn’t even left the country!) and this urn made of wood blocks (can you believe it?).  The kids liked feeding the seagulls their leftover lunch.  Everybody left happy!

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For more on our trip to Hobart, Tasmania:

City Travel Guide:  Hobart with Kids

Three Generations Roadtrip: Hobart to Port Arthur

Have you been to Hobart?  Any free excursions from Hobart that I might have missed?



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5 free things to do in Columbus, Ohio with kids

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

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

#1  Take a Walk Through Historic German Village

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

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

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

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

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#2  Enjoy Columbus’ many parks

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

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

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

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#3  Tour Ohio’s Statehouse

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

#4  Enjoy the Columbus Commons on a Friday during summer

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

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

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

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

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

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**This is NOT a sponsored post**

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5 Favorite Spots within Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Cuyahoga Valley National Park did not disappoint.  Since we live in Central Ohio, I’ve been attracted to Hocking Hills, but I think CVNP has created some serious competition for Hocking.  Only established in 2000, Cuyahoga Valley National Park lies between two of Ohio’s largest cities, Akron and Cleveland.  I think much of its appeal is that the park is easily accessible from many major roads and highways…and you’re never more than 20 minutes away from a Starbucks or McDonalds.  #Merica.  😉 It really feels like you’re in someone’s backyard, not out in the middle of nowhere.

We visited with our kids, but these 5 favorite spots could work for old and young:

Deep Lock Quarry

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

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

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Virginia Kendall State Park Historic District aka The Ledges

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

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

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Perspective.

 

Boston Store Visitor Center/Blue Hen Falls/Brandywine Falls

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

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

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

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

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Canal Exploration Center

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

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

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

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Bedford Reservation

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

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

More info:

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

You could do most of these highlights in one day.  Because of the ages of our kids and our driving time of 2 hours, we broke our visit into two days and stayed one night in the Akron area at the Residence Inn by Marriott Fairlawn.  We love Residence Inns because they have a separate bedroom and living area and offer a free hot breakfast.

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

Cuyahoga Valley National Park website HERE

 

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