Enjoying history and scenery in Summit Metro Parks

As much as I love going on a hike, very few things can beat a FALL Ohio hike.  No 98% humidity, fewer bugs, and the crunch of leaves underfoot.  #Perfection.  On our first trip to Summit Metro Parks, we were given the most glorious autumn day, and the history and scenery that we encountered did not disappoint.

Our first stop in Summit Metro Parks was Gorge Metro Park (on my 2017 Travel Bucket List)!  Gorge Metro Park is located in Cuyahoga Falls, OH and is an outstanding place to enjoy views of the Cuyahoga River, a large cave, and even do some fishing.

We ventured out on the Gorge Trail (aptly named) in hopes to see the Mary Campbell Cave.  The cave is named after a 12-year-old Pennsylvania girl that was kidnapped from her home by the Delaware Indians. She was released 5 years later, in 1764, at the close of the French & Indian War.  It is believed that she dwelt in the cave with the Native Americans!

The history is fascinating, and the size of the cave is more than I expected.

Summit Metro Parks- Gorge Trail Mary Campbell Cave- Summit Metro Parks

Unfortunately, the upper trail was closed past the cave, so we took the trail shortcut down to the Observation Deck.  I could have sat here for hours and listened to the waterfall created by the Dam.  Tourists have been flocking to this area since the late 1800s, at one time a small amusement park was adjoined!

Summit Metro Parks- Dam Summit Metro Parks- Observation Deck

While the Observation Deck isn’t handicap accessible or stroller-friendly, shortly after this the Gorge Trail does become paved. If you’re looking for a short trail to take unsteady feet, this would be a good one (See-> Best Ohio Hikes for Kids).

The kiddos were getting a little antsy, so we headed back to the car for some snacks and scoped out our next stop within Summit Metro Parks.

I’d read something briefly about an Indian Signal Tree and thought this would be a piece of homeschooling history that we could not miss!  The Indian Signal Tree is located in the Chuckery area of Cascade Valley Metro Park.  This bur oak is over 300 years old and was used by the Natives to find their way from the Cuyahoga River to Summit Lake.  My mind wandered to the countless history that this tree has witnessed!  I sat there in disbelief – that for most of my life I’ve lived less than 2-3 hours away and yet didn’t know this existed?  This is why we choose to explore nearby areas and view local destinations as important as those that are hundreds or thousands of miles away!

Summit Metro Parks- Signal Tree

The Signal Tree is only about 100 yards from the closest parking spot, so this is an easy place to jump out and learn some history.  There is an attached 2.4 mile Chuckery Trail, but we did not venture on it.

Captivated by Summit Metro Parks, we wanted to make one more stop before heading home.  I’d seen pictures of an Overlook on Instagram but we weren’t sure where to look.  Luckily, on our drive into Cuyahoga Falls looking for some dinner, we passed right by the parking lot for the Overlook Trail!

The Overlook Trail is also located with the Cascade Valley Metro Park, but in a different area than the Signal Tree.

The half mile trail is paved and ADA compliant.  We forgot to bring a stroller (#fail), but it’s not a hilly path and was easy enough for our tired kiddos.

This is the perfect Instagram spot for fall foliage.  I think we missed it by a week.

 

While we enjoyed a perfect combo of weather and scenery at Summit Metro Parks, my favorite part of our visit was the friendly Northeast Ohio personalities we walked by throughout the day.  Nearly everyone said “hello” or spoke with us about our kids!  I always feel like a hike in the woods connects me to our children and our Creator, but this day also encouraged me with the gleaming show of Midwestern hospitality.

Have you been to Summit Metro Parks?  What was your favorite hike?  We still have so much more to explore!

 

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Summit Metro Parks- Northeast Ohio- Family-friendly hiking, history, and scenery.

5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids

Sandusky, Ohio is a small city on the shores of Lake Erie that has a ton to offer families!  Sandusky is well-known as the home to  Cedar Point, but most people spend a day on the rollercoasters and then leave town (raised hand here).  However, there’s so many reasons to stay and play in Sandusky.  Here are my suggestions of 5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids!

#1 Enjoy top notch museums

I would not have thought of Sandusky, a city of only 25,000 people, having two fantastic museums!  I learned so much at both the Maritime Museum AND the The Merry-Go-Round Museum!

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is situated in the old Sandusky Post Office.  The circular building made for the perfect place to house a full 1920s Carousel.  I learned so many facts about Carousels- Did you know that every Carousel has a lead horse where the ticket taker would know to start and stop?  Did you know that British carousels go clockwise, but everywhere else they are counter-clockwise?  Or that carousels date all the way back to the 12th century?  Someone sign me up for jeopardy, this museum was a goldmine!

Kids will enjoy getting to ride on the historic Carousel (included in admission) that travels 9 mph!  If you’re weak in the stomach, I don’t recommend coming right after a very filling hotel breakfast.  I speak from experience!

Things to do with kids in Sandusky, Ohio- The Merry-Go-Round Museum

The Maritime Museum was another welcome surprise.  Sandusky’s location on Lake Erie makes for a history brimming with nautical mystery and drama.  The location wasn’t just known for shipping and ferries though, in the late 1900s, Sandusky was the largest ice producer west of New York City!  Children can also learn how Sandusky played a role in the Underground Railroad.  This was the last stop before former slaves could catch the ferry over to Canada.

Lastly, kids will love this interact pirate ship!  Yes, Lake Erie even had her share of pirates!

Things to do with kids in Sandusky, Ohio- Maritime Museum

The Maritime Museum gives a family discount, offering immediate families admission for just $14.  This is a great deal- allot 90+ minutes to spend here.

#2 Hit the water

You can’t be right on the shores of Lake Erie and not enjoy some water activities!  Kids of all ages will enjoy Sandusky’s Goodtime I.  We took a sunset cruise and enjoyed both scenic views and Cedar Point.  Food and beverage can be purchased onboard- for adults that’s a full bar, and there were pizza slices for kids!  This is a relaxing way to end a day in Sandusky, and prices are affordable- costing our family of 5 less than $30 (under 5 are free).

Things to do in Sandusky with kids- Goodtime I sunset cruise

For the more adventurous, and those with teens, check out Air1Airboats out of East Sandusky Bay!  This was not my first airboat ride, but it was my first trip on rough waters!  What a hoot!  I’m glad I packed my rain jacket (similar), because we got WET!Things to do in Sandusky with kids- Airboat tour

#3 Fill your tummies

Sandusky has no shortage of fantastic places to dine!

How about a locally-sourced breakfast or brunch at Bates Farm Kitchen?  Large portions of biscuits and gravy and farm-fresh omelets were on the seasonal menu.  Chef Clint uses ingredients that you’ll be happy to let your kids indulge in!  I know my kids would enjoy the french toast with Ohio maple syrup.

Needing to caffeinate after a busy day with kids?  Try the new(ish) Boomtown Coffee!  I tried a nitrogen-infused cold brew (think coffee that comes from a tap and looks like a beer).  It was amazing- definitely a pick-me-up!

Wanting a lakefront lunch?  Try the Dockside Cafe.  Not only does the cafe offer up gorgeous vistas of the lake, the food is casual, kid-friendly fare.  (They are open seasonally- only til October 1 this year- so hurry).Things to do with kids in Sandusky- Dockside Cafe

Looking to affirm your sweet tooth?  Toft’s Dairy is a Sandusky institution for all things dairy- including their famous ice cream!  Visit their parlor on Venice Road to try the many flavors.  I love the story behind Toft’s family business, including the fact that all of their milk comes from farms located within a 50 mile radius.

#4 Cruise around town (in an atypical way)

For kids 14 and older, what better way to engage them in the history of Sandusky, than by doing so while riding a Segway?  Yes, Sandusky has it’s own Segway tour!  Jim, owner of Segwave, has the patience of Job with those that are a little nervous or unsure (i.e. – ME).  Jim offers 1 and 2 hour tours of Sandusky, and plenty of training time to get acclimated on the device.  Your favorite part will be cruising right by Lake Erie (and crossing your fingers that the Segway floats).  Just kidding!

#5 Play it up

When we pulled up to Ghostly Manor, I wasn’t so sure if this would be a place I could recommend.  My 7-yr old is afraid of  simple Halloween decorations, so the giant dragon at the door isn’t exactly what you’d expect for a kid-friendly playhouse.  Once inside, I could see why this is the perfect place for the whole family to hang out.  From a roller skating rink to an Escape Room, kids of all ages will be happy.  There is also a haunted house, black light golf, a jungle jym, and arcade games.  Our group of adults did the Missing Deed Escape Room, which was much harder than I expected, we needed various clue to help us get out!

Ghostly Manor is a place you could visit in Sandusky again and again.  I’d consider taking my young ones there if traveling with older children that wanted to be at Cedar Point or nearby Haunted Houses.

So there’s my Top 5 things to do in Sandusky, Ohio with kids!  Have you been to Sandusky?  Were you like me and chose to hit up Cedar Point and then call it a day?  I urge you to add more time to your stay!  Sandusky is celebrating it’s bicentennial in 2018 (more coming soon) and there is tons of revitalization in the works.  You won’t want to miss it!

* I was hosted by Lake Erie Shores & Islands on a media trip.  All opinions are my own.*

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Fall Reading List – 2017

I blinked and summer is behind us.  Booo.  But never fear, there is fall-foliage, crisp mornings, and chilly evenings that all make it a perfect time to curl up with a good book.  I’m excited to share with you my fall reading list for 2017!

Fall reading list for 2017.  What I'm reading this fall.

Born for This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant to Do – Chris Guillebeau is best known in travel circles for having visited all 193 countries.  However, he’s been able to build a remote worklife and his lifestyle is intriguing.  I’m most interested in his chapters on entrepreneurship and building a loyal following.

Mother of God – Mother of God is the Madre de Dios, a region of west Peru where the Amazon River begins its course. Paul Rosolie, the author, was only 18 when he left to explore this vast jungle.  You know they say that readers make the best writers, and I’m hoping that reading this travelogue will help me as I write about my travels (albeit I don’t plan to have any anacondas on my trips).

So Happiness to Meet You – From the publisher, “After job losses and the housing crash, the author and her family leave L.A. to start over in a most unlikely place: a nine-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts, where neighbors unabashedly stare into windows, generously share their barbecued rat, keep cockroaches for luck, and ultimately help her find joy without Western trappings.”  Just released in July, this is sure to be a fascinating read!

The Power of the Other – From the publisher, “Popular wisdom suggests that we should not allow others to have power over us, but the reality is that they do, for better or for worse.”  Ahhh, preach!  “Combining engaging case studies, persuasive findings from cutting-edge brain research, and examples from his consulting practice, Dr. Cloud argues that whether you’re a Navy SEAL or a corporate executive, outstanding performance depends on having the right kind of connections to fuel personal growth and minimize toxic associations and their effects.” From Dr. Henry Cloud, author of the popular Boundaries, this is sure to be a helpful book!

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World – I can’t think of anything more exciting than a trip around the world, which, in 2017, doesn’t involve much drama, thanks to efficient airplanes and affordable travel options. However this trip takes place in 1899!  Two women, both leaving from NYC, try to break the record for the fastest trip around the world.  Nellie heads east by steamship and Elizabeth heads west by train. I can’t wait to dive into it!

Knights in Training: Ten Principles for Raising Honorable, Courageous, and Compassionate Boys – Folks, can I just say, raising boys is hard?  Especially the strong-willed one that questions EVERY. LITTLE. THING.  I’m always open to new wisdom, and this book came highly recommended.  It will make a great addition to my fall reading.

What are you reading this fall?  I’d love to know!

PIN THIS:Fall Reading list for Fall 2017. Books to read in 2017.

How to have a family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

At 33-years-old and living in Ohio nearly my entire life, it felt like a TRAVESTY that I hadn’t been to Put-in-Bay.  Put-in-Bay is a small city on South Bass Island, Lake Erie, that’s probably most well-known by the locals for it’s flourishing nightlife.  However, visiting with our children showed me that it can be kid-friendly!

Today, I’m sharing how you can have a family-fun day at Put-in-Bay (I’m a poet and I know it).

#1 Take Miller Ferry to Put-in Bay

Miller Ferry is an easy and affordable option to get to Put-in-Bay.  As a cost-conscious family, a quick Google search revealed that Miller Ferry is less than HALF the cost of their competitor.  It’s hard to justify paying more for a boat trip that only takes 20 minutes!  We found the ferry terminal to be convenient and all day parking was plentiful and only $5.  Also, there are clean restrooms at both terminals.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#2  Rent a golf cart from E’s rental

Located just steps from the Ferry Terminal- E’s Put-in-Bay Golf Carts was a convenient option for our daytrip to Put-in-Bay.  We arrived at a very busy time (noon) and yet it only took about 5 minutes for me to check-in for my pre-reserved golf cart.  E’s has a large inventory of 2, 4 and 6-person golf carts.

Each golf cart is named, and our oldest child enjoyed reading all of the names to us!  Next time I go, I’d like this one. 😉

E's Golf Carts- a Family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#3  Check out downtown Put-in-Bay

I recommend doing this FIRST thing when you arrive.  I’m not a prude, but there are some things I’m not ready to explain!  We noticed that the crowd changed quickly around 3 pm.  So head here for an early lunch, let the kids play on the pristine playground with water views, and take a spin on Kimberly’s Carousel.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#4 Visit Perry’s Victory & International Peace Monument

Families visiting Put-in-Bay should not miss the Perry Victory & International Peace Monument.  The 352-foot monument and Visitor Center commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie, which took place during the War of 1812.  We were lucky enough to arrive just as a Ranger-led educational session was beginning, but the Visitor Center alone is a wealth of information on Put-in-Bay’s role in the war.

The International Peace Monument is the only Peace Memorial in the USA’s National Park Service.  It commemorates the long-lasting peace between Canada, the USA, and the United Kingdom.  These three flags still fly outside the memorial.

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

#5 Enjoy the views from a State Park

South Bass Island offers two family-friendly State Parks- South Bass State Park and Oak Point State Park.  Oak Point State Park is the state’s smallest state park at only an acre and a half, but it does pack some gorgeous views of Put-in-Bay and Perry’s Monument (even on a cloudy day).  This would be a perfect spot for a family picnic.Oak Point State Park- Family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

South Bass State Park is more of full-service park that offers camping and a public boat launch.  They also have four cabents, which look like a cross between a yurt and a cabin.  We’d like to go back and rent one for weekend of family-fun!

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

Have you been to Put-in-Bay or South Bass Island?  What do you recommend for families to do?  

A family-fun day at Put-in-Bay

** Miller Ferry provided me with ferry transportation and a golf cart rental.  However, all opinions are my own.**

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Planning a family-friendly day at Put-in-Bay, Ohio.

Put-in-Bay, Ohio with kids- A family-friendly day at Put-in-Bay

The NEW Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills- with kids

One of my reasons for wanting to visit Hocking Hills this year, besides staying in a super cool Caboose, was to try out the new Whispering Cave trail at Hocking Hills with the kids.  As a family, we’ve been to Hocking Hills numerous times, so it was exciting to know that this time we’d have a new area to check out.  The Whispering Cave/Hemlock Bridge Trail opened in May 2017.

The trail head to the Whispering Cave trail is adjacent to the Hocking Hills Lodge and parking lot.  Unfortunately, the Dining Lodge burnt down in late 2016.

Map from ODNR – red graphics are all mine, lol

The Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills- with kids

You’ll start from the UU and, as I’ve marked on the map, to get to the Whispering Cave, you’ll want to go all the way to the VV (yellow trail).  We did not follow the green trail all the way to the bottom of Hemlock Gorge because it was already a steep descent.

You know your family’s limitations better than mine, but completing the Whispering Cave portion was enough for our kids.  The boys struggled going up all of the stairs and the steep climb on the return, and our 3 year old insisted that I hold her because her legs were too tired.  I believe I counted approximately 110 stairs, which are always much easier on the way down. Lol.

The Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills with kids

According to ODNR, the trip is only .8 miles each way, but like I mentioned, there are some steep cliffs.  Make sure you wear proper footwear or hiking tennis shoes.  If you’re dealing with children under 3, I’d recommend something like a Kelty child carrier– this trail is in NO way stroller-friendly.  Check out instead:  Best Hiking Trails at Hocking Hills for Kids

The Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills- with kids The cliffs on the Whispering Cave Trail in Hocking Hills, Ohio.  Hiking with kids on this trail requires caution.

The yellow trail (pictured above) is mostly what hugs the cliff as you make your way into the Whispering Cave.

This way!

The Whispering Cave.  This large recess is awe-inspiring and makes all of that time spent near the edge worth it!  Hiking with kids at Hocking Hills is doable. Whispering Cave Trail at Hocking Hills.

Once you arrive at Whispering Cave, the nerve-wracking descent will be over and you’ll be thankful you made this journey with your kids.  The cave is something to marvel at- I’m not sure photos can do it justice.  For us, it was less of a Whispering Cave and more of a “scream bloody murder” as C got a splinter from that pretty new fencing.  (That’s when you’re thankful for a passerby with a Swiss Army knife).

Also, we visited on a Monday in June, and as you can tell, the site was busy.  However, the hike had only been open for one month and it was summertime.  I’ll be eager to see how busy this trail becomes on the weekends.  Will it be as frequented as some of the other Hocking Hills hikes?  I’m sure the scenery alone may be the culprit of its popularity!

Have you been to the Whispering Cave yet?  Have you been to Hocking Hills with your family?

Need a place to stay?  Check current rates!

Looking for more hikes with kids at Hocking Hills?  Here’s my list of the Best Hikes for Families at Hocking Hills.

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Yes, you can hike at Whispering Cave with kids.  Use my guide to this Hocking Hills trail before you visit.

Homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

It’s hard to believe it’s our 3rd year of homeschooling.  It seems like I just had two in diapers and now I have two in school!  ((Cue the weeping))  A few close friends ask for homeschool updates, so without further ado, I’ll share what we’re planning this year while homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner.

If you want to read our past updates on homeschooling:

A really long post about our first year of homeschooling

Second year of homeschooling

The past two years I’ve focused heavily on reading and math.  My philosophy for younger kids is that if you can get them reading and doing math, the science and history and other puzzle pieces will all fall into place.

For Olen, our kindergartner, I’ll be focusing on those two things!  I feel like, unfortunately, since Olen was my middle one in the midst of 3 under 4, he missed out on some of the preschool work that I did with Jackson.  I’ll be doing the same Abeka K5 program for phonics and reading that I also did with Jackson.  The program is probably better suited to a small classroom or private school, but it did set a good foundation for Jackson so we’ll roll with it again.

Handwriting will be the ever-famous Handwriting without Tears.  We’re fairly certain that Olen is a leftie, so hopefully I’ll be free of tears, too, as I navigate trying to teach left-handing writing.

Homeschooling a 2nd grader and kindergartner - Handwriting without Tears

Jackson (2nd grade) will be starting the next book in the series of A Reason for Handwriting.  I really like this workbook and the way it helps us to also learn Scripture.

For math, we’re doing some catch-up and review via a School Zone Kindergarten workbook and flashcards, and then diving right into Horizons Math 1.  Jackson is nearly halfway through Horizons Math 2 and we should complete that this year.  I like Horizons, but I do feel like it moves at a quick pace.  I want my children to master a skill, not just ace the test.  I’ve spent a lot of time reviewing addition and subtraction with Jackson and let’s hope it haspaid off!  He’s starting multiplication this week.

For science, both boys will be studying Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day, although I expect Olen’s role will be geared more towards just coloring in his accompanying Junior Notebooking Journal.

Homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

For history, we’re going to use the The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child and the accompanying activity book.  Because I love history, this was the hardest curriculum for me to pick.   I really like the Classical model, and I’m hoping this will be a good fit for our family!  I think I’ll be able to gear this for both boys based on the activities- Jackson will be able to do a little more than Olen, but I like that we can all work on it TOGETHER.

The Story of the World - Homeschooling a 2nd grader and kindergartner

For Ohio history, we’re planning field trips to Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Johnny Appleseed Museum at Urbana University.  We’re also hoping to get to Marietta!

That’s probably all for Olen- while Jackson will have his own spelling, language arts, and phonics.

For  Jackson’s phonics, we’re using Explode the Code again.

I call my homeschool the hodge-podge method and it’s because I enjoy many different styles.  I’ve enjoyed many things by Charlotte Mason.  Last year we used a Charlotte-Mason based nature study called The Outdoor Secrets Companion and I’m sure that over the years I will revisit this combination of literature and nature.  For Jackson’s language arts we’re using Language Lessons for Today: Grade 2.

Spelling will be Building Spelling Skills- Book 2.

Building Spelling Skills- Homeschooling a 2nd grader and Kindergartner

We also spend lots of time developing our reading and listening skills by reading aloud.  Over the summer, the kids “earned” screen time by reading books and allowing me to read to them.  We’re reading through the Little House on the Prairie series and will finish The Long Winter this week.  Anyone have any suggestions for when we’re ready to move on from the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder?

The Long Winter- homeschooling a second grader and kindergartner

Per the State of Ohio, we’re to cover health topics like nutrition and body care.  I found this fun book called Nutrition Fun with Brocc & Roll and I think it puts a kid-friendly spin on how to read labels and I can’t wait to get my copy. I’ll be supplemented with some library materials like Nutrition Facts for Kids and Good Enough to Eat.

Nutrition Fun- Homeschooling a 2nd grader and Kindergartner

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention our darling Miss C. So far she’s been sitting at the table and doing many of the same things as Olen.  She hasn’t been as distracting as last year (but it’s only day 6!).  Today, when she tired of my instruction, she just went to her room and played with her dolls.  We’ll see how it goes as the year progresses.

Tell me- What’s your go-to curriculum?  Do you use any of the same things? I’d love to know!  

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Things to do in Ohio in Fall

I’m sad to say that summer is leaving us and the kids are heading back to school.  However, autumn is a glorious season in Ohio and there’s many family-friendly things to do in Ohio in Fall.

Here’s some ideas for what to do in my great state, as well as additional visitor information.

 

Things to do in Ohio in fall

September

Ohio River Sternwheel Festival –  September 8-10, 2017  Marietta has been home to the Sternwheel Festival for over 40 years!  I’ve already been charmed by this river town, so I can see why a free family-friendly event would make it even more desirable.

For more things to do while you’re visiting Marietta check out 5 Reasons You Must Visit, Outdoor Adventures via Backroad Ramblers, Explore Ohio’s First Adventure via Big Family Minimalist & Outdoor Adventures via Pickles Travel.

Ohio Renaissance Festival – September 2- October 29, 2017  Want to see a sword fight, joust, or a tale of Robin Hood without traveling back in time?  The Ohio Renaissance Festival is sure to delight kids of all ages through food, shows, and old-fashioned games and rides.  The festival runs for nearly two months with themed weekend programming.  You can check out The Wandering Educator’s review HERE  OR The Adventure Mom’s thoughts HERE.

Backwoods Fest September 15-17, 2017  Thornville’s Backwoods Fest is located near Buckeye Lake.  The three-day festival is an arts and crafts extravaganza of over 300 vendors situated in the woods of Perry County.  The food options are mouth-watering!  Kids aged 10 and under are free, but make sure if you take a stroller that it’s one with big wheels — it’s not called “backwoods” for nothing. 😉

Columbus OktoberFest – September 22-24, 2017  In its 50th year, the Columbus OktoberFest is a free family event located at the Ohio Expo Center/Ohio State Fairgrounds.  The fall tradition hosts a men’s and women’s stone toss & cream puff eating competition (you had me at cream puff).  There’s over 10,000 feet of covered space, so the festival will go on whether rain or shine.

Cedar Point HalloWeekendsSeptember 15- October 29, 2017  America’s Roller Coaster Capital hosts a 7-weekend event geared for the Halloween enthusiast.  Daytimes are a kid-friendly Great Pumpkin Fest.  Once dark descends, though, so do the creepy ghosts and zombies.  HalloWeekends are included in the price of your admission – consider booking a package with a stay at the newly renovated Hotel Breakers.  Find out more on HalloWeekends from Adventure Mom’s post on how to survive if you don’t like the scarier stuff.

Things to do in Ohio in the fall- HalloWeekends

October

Bob Evans Farm Fest – October 13-15, 2017   Did you know that the popular chain, Bob Evans, actually began in the hills of southern Ohio?  Rio Grande, Ohio is home to this 3-day festival of crafts, kids’ activities and musical entertainment- and of course, a Bob Evans food tent.  Find out more in this post by Ohio Girl Travels.

Take a hike or a road trip to see fall foliage – early-late October  Ohio’s trees put on a show in the month of October.  Fall foliage varies greatly from the north and south ends of the state but consider a roadtrip or a hike to enjoy the beauty of autumn.  Get started here:  Five family-friendly Ohio hikes or Top 5 Hocking Hills hikes for kids

Ashtabula Covered Bridge Festival – October 14 & 15th, 2017  Ashtabula County boasts the most Covered Bridges in the state of Ohio- 19 in total!  Come celebrate all things covered bridges, and take a driving tour while you’re at it.  This is one road trip going on my Ohio Bucket List.

Circleville Pumpkin ShowOctober 18-21st, 2017  Over 100 years old, the Circleville Pumpkin Show is a staple of fall in Ohio!  Test your taste buds on about every pumpkin-flavored food imaginable.  7 parades, a ride midway, and a giant pumpkin contest round out the fun.  Wanting more to do while in Circleville?- Look no further.

Things to do in Ohio in Fall

Apple Butter Stirrin Festival October 21-22, 2017  This Coshocton festival highlights apple butter including demonstrations on how it is made over an open fire.  With family activities and over 100 vendors, this Roscoe Village event is sure to please.

What’s your favorite thing to do in Ohio in the fall?  

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Things to do in Ohio in Fall

Thirty-One Gifts – Empowering women + NEW fall line

In my short time as a blogger, I’ve been blessed with opportunities that I didn’t really expect!  One of them happened a few weeks ago, when I was able to attend the Thirty-One Gifts Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

If you live in the USA or Canada, I’m sure you’ve heard of Thirty-One’s stylish and functional purses, wallets, and organizing solutions.  I’ve used their products for at least 7 years, for everything from diaper bags to file folders and travel accessories.  Thirty-One really does offer problem-solving totes for all ages, but what I found out even more from attending their conference is that they aim to inspire and empower woman through Christian values.  They also have some of THE friendliest employees I have ever met!

Thirty-One’s conference is a three-day weekend of uplifting speakers, hands-on training, and a conference shop.  It should have been no surprise the massive crowd at Nationwide Arena, because combining US and Canada numbers, there are over 63,000 independent sales consultants!  Thirty-One is the 38th largest direct selling company IN THE WORLD!

Seeing this caliber of company, it’s easy to understand why they had speakers like Carrie Wilkerson, John Addison, and Dewitt Jones.  Our session included an hour long presentation by Dewitt Jones, who spent twenty years as a world-class photographer for National Geographic.  Being the travel-obsessed lady that I am, I couldn’t wait to hear Jones’ perspective on creativity and success.

One of the first things that Mr. Jones told the Thirty-One family was,

Celebrate what is right with the world rather than what is wrong with it.Click To Tweet

Would it have been awkward for me to give him a standing ovation at that moment?  Don’t worry, I didn’t!

Dewitt talked about how he got started at National Geographic by pitching what seemed like a crazy adventure as a paid gig.  As a young college kid, he wanted to shoot a video of some friends kayaking up the coast of Japan.  The story was pretty funny, but he believes that he got the job only because he kept pushing into life- and it pushed back.

He urged us that were listening with the charge, “When passion and creativity are are there, discipline and commitment isn’t lacking.”  Isn’t that fact?  When we are passionate and creative, we don’t have to wonder if we’ll stay committed.  It’s like the old adage, “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.”  YES.  (I’m about to stand up and clap RIGHT NOW).

Dewitt wove his beautiful images into his speech, showing us how changing our perspective can completely change the outcome.  In his heyday, he would take over 14,000 photos to get 30 for a magazine spread.  In other words, think how much it takes to train your technique and focus on your vision.

He pushed again, “Life is continually finding the next right answer.”  Wow, isn’t that true.  Whether we are selling purses or writing a blog or raising kids or navigating an airport– We are continually tweaking our skills and procedure to find what works best.

Mr. Jones entire speech aligned with the Thirty-One vision, which is “to give women the tools to achieve financial freedom to support their personal “Whys” and to make the path to that freedom simple, easy & fun, and full of rewarding experiences.”

I’m thankful I was able to have such a rewarding experience by attending the conference!

Now, not going to lie, while the speech was well-received, we ladies love some FREE STUFF.  Afterward, the fall catalog conference swag was released and the crowd was pumped.

Here’s a sample of Thirty-One Gifts fall 2017:

Cinch Sac in Little Bones – My Olen wants to use this for Trick or Treat.  How adorable!

Essential Storage Tote in Moosin’ Around – I know this is geared towards Christmas, but I want to plan a trip to Canada or Alaska based solely based upon this print and have all of my bags personalized. That is all. #agirlcandream

Littles Carry-all Caddy in Grey Lil’ Scribble – this bag is part of the We Give Back initiative…and I can’t wait to use it in C’s room

You can find even more in the new Fall Catalog!

Which one of these products is your favorite?  Anyone else ready to book a trip based upon a bag?  Or, what speech has inspired you lately?

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*I attended Thirty-One’s conference as a member of the media and received the above bags for free.  All opinions are my own!*

Best places for dessert in Fort Wayne, Indiana

When you think of a foodie destination, the Midwestern city of Fort Wayne may not come to mind!  However, our family had a blast eating our way through the city! Here are our tips for 3 of the best places for dessert in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Yummi Bunni

The name didn’t give me a clue as to why we should visit Yummi Bunni.  However, we’re not talking about a little rabbit (although it is in their logo), we’re talking about a BUN- a glazed one, nonetheless.  Inside of that sweet bun is your ice cream of choice AND a topping.  Think of something like the seasonal “Ooey Gooey” which is  s’mores ice cream with toasted marshmallow cream, topped with fudge and graham cracker chunks and then a peanut butter drizzle! That’s a big serving of happiness if you ask me.  😉

 

I believe the top option was named after me!

The Yummi Bunni is located in a convenient downtown location, which was only a short walk from our hotel- The Hilton Fort Wayne at Grand Wayne Convention.

This Fort Wayne dessert shop is so popular, it was recently featured on the Today Show on a segment showcasing ice cream trends.  The Yummi Bunni is one trend you’ll want to take part in, trust me!

Sweets So Geek

This little gem is located in an unassuming strip mall, but I promise you that Sweets So Geek will deliver some BIG tastes.

We went to Sweets so Geek hoping for Star Wars cutouts, but they didn’t have any that day.  However, Olen picked out Ghostbusters gummies, i.e. Slimer.  We also had lightsaber chocolate-covered pretzels and delicious cupcakes.  I chose a gluten-free cupcake and my husband and I both agreed that the cupcakes may have been the best we’d ever had!

If your kids love superheroes or sci-fi, they are sure to love the shop that’s themed towards their favorite characters.  My kids favorite part (after the treats)- the toilet paper roll in the restroom was a toy lightsaber.  #momtooknotes

DeBrand Fine Chocolates

DeBrand already has a well-established name as one of the best desserts in Fort Wayne and for good reason!  You can tour the DeBrand Fine Chocolates factory on the north side or visit one of their other three locations.  We chose to stop by the downtown shop, looking for a cool treat after a fun morning spent kayaking.

Their downtown location has a swanky vibe to it, with velvet coverings and soft lighting.  We marched in in our sweaty athletic gear, so you don’t have to dress up!  While DeBrand Fine Chocolate’s signature is their chocolate, we tried their gelato and were not disappointed.  I got the citrus flavor and it was a refreshing treat!  If you’re visiting on a cold day, they offer espressos and hot chocolate.

Fort Wayne has so many great dessert places, you’ll definitely want to make room in your diet!  Or, be like us, and have ice cream and cupcakes for lunch.

Have you been to Fort Wayne, Indiana?  What’s your favorite local treat?

More to do in Fort Wayne:  48 Hours in Family-Friendly Fort Wayne

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** I was hosted by the Fort Wayne CVB.  All opinions & photographs are my own.**

** Post contains affiliate links**

Best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills is the perfect family-friendly Ohio destination.  The main attraction of Hocking Hills are her natural rock formations and numerous waterfalls, but all of these must be reached by hiking trails.  Over the years I wished that someone would have ranked the easiest or best trails for young children. So, after multiple visits with our family, I’ve come up with a list of the best hiking trails for kids at Hocking Hills.

#1  Ash Cave

The easiest hiking trail at Hocking Hills for kids of all ages is the paved Gorge Trail at Ash Cave.  This trail is stroller/wheelchair accessible and it’s only 0.3 miles long each way, so if you have young ones that want to walk, but tire out quickly, they should be able to handle the short distance.

The trail ends at the large cave recess- Ash Cave stands over 90 feet high and is almost 700 feet wide from end to end, so it’s sure to wow even the littlest traveler.  The area is full of sand and the rocks can be slippery, so tennis shoes should be worn.  However, on dry days I’ve found Ash Cave to be almost one giant (shallow) sandbox.  If you have a little one that likes diggers or trucks, maybe pack a few small ones to give yourself a moment of solitude.

#2 Conkles Hollow

Conkles Hollow is a State Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  This is one of the most dramatic areas in the winter, as the walls of the gorge can be filled with ice formations.  On one winter visit my little ones through we had taken off to Elsa’s land in Frozen.

The best trail for kids at Conkles Hollow would be the half-mile Gorge Trail.   The Gorge Trail at Conkles Hollow is paved and stroller-friendly, just note that if you do visit in winter, this area does not get a lot of sun and you may be walking on a sheet of ice instead of a paved trail!  For the most part though, for the summer and fall visitor, this paved trail is without too many hazards for children to encounter and makes a must-see stop on your Hocking Hills vacation.

#3 Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls is one of the most iconic sites at Hocking Hills!  For good reason – the waterfall and surroundings are truly magical.  There are multiple ways to reach the Cedar Falls and with small children it’s hard to know which is the best!

I recommend parking at the main Cedar Falls parking area (this is not the one right along 374 but instead follow the signs to a stone sign and parking entrance).  This trail is NOT stroller friendly, but you do enter the gorge via stairs which for me is easier if holding the hand of a toddler or wearing them in a carrier.  I’m less nervous about falling!   (Using this map, you’d only hike the portion where the yellow and purple go together and then turn around).

#4 Rockbridge

Rockbridge is another Nature Preserve within the Hocking Hills area.  I had a hard time choosing the between a #4 and #5 for the best hiking trails, but I like Rockbridge because there is very little time in which I HAVE to be holding the hand of my preschooler.  The path begins in essentially, a pasture, and then weaves through the woods before coming to Ohio’s largest natural rock bridge.  This is the area where you’ll need to be extra careful with young children too ensure they don’t fall.

Another reason why I love the Rockbridge is because I’ve never found it to be as busy as Ash Cave or Old Man’s Cave.  It’s not “off the beaten track” but in the words of a fellow traveler I met on our last visit, “Old Man’s Cave was like an airport terminal.”  You’ll find out for yourself.

#5 Old Man’s Cave

Old Man’s Cave is one of the hallmarks of Hocking Hills.  For the most kid-friendly experience, I’d take the stairs down to the bottom of the gorge and get on the blue Grandma Gatewood Trail.  This trail allows you to view the main attractions of the Devil’s bathtub and Upper Falls.  You will have access to the upper gorge and rim trails, but with younger children I’d probably just take the stairs back the same way you came down.

Have you been to Hocking Hills?  Which trail would you recommend as the best for kids?

You can learn more about Hocking Hills HERE (i.e. find out why I don’t recommend the Rock House).

Looking for a place to stay?  Check out the Hocking Hills Caboose.

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