We don’t live in a place where we can have a treehouse or frog pond like some kids do. But once in a while, my kids get a taste of what I think is an idyllic place for the kids to spend a summer afternoon — the children’s garden at the Cleveland Botanical Gardens. The first couple years we came here the kids were mesmerized by the water fountains, sand box and water pumps, but now they also spend hours chasing each other, searching for frogs, climbing on rocks and playing “Secret Agent” (whatever that is). Lucky them. Now if only there could be a place like this in Akron …
Archive for the ‘Day Trips’ Category
I’ve never been to The Wilds outdoor animal park, but my sister-in-law spent her wedding night last year in a zurt on the grounds, so it must be pretty special. Anyway, this year they added a zipline tour. The only other zipline tour in the state is in Hocking Hills. My husband and I did that one a few years ago. I wasn’t nuts about the experience so I don’t plan on trying out the Wilds tour. What I would try is their horseback riding, which they also added this year. The safari tours are pricey, but you’re supposed to get a 50% discount with your local zoo membership (I’m not sure which tours they apply to). My sister-in-law is planning to do either the horseback riding or zipline tour next month as a birthday present for her husband, so I’ll pass along her experience.
We were in Dayton on Sunday to see “The Lion King” and after the performance, we drove to the river to take a walk before the long ride home. The Metroparks there have done a super job of developing the area, with a pavilion, spray fountains for the kids, swings that sit atop an overlook of the Great Miami River, and bike trails that go on seemingly forever. Definitely a place to add to our “future road trips for biking” list. BTW, I can also verify that Dayton has great art and science museums. (The Air Force museum is also there but we’ve not been there yet — it’s not quite my thing though it’s supposed to be an excellent museum). (Also, if you’re a Norman Rockwell fan, there will be a special exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute November 12, 2011 through February 5, 2012.)
I blogged about this last year after my kids and I went on Presidents’ Day. Every year on Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents’ Day, Lake Farmpark in Kirtland hosts a “Discovery Day”. Kids are admitted free with a paying adult ($6), and they have tons of activities that they only have on these days (or select special events). Get there early — they open at 9. It’s about an hour’s drive from Akron but worth it. I kind of forgot about it but my son was asking the other day when we were going to go there again. Then I happened to come across photos I took there last year and that got me excited to go again this year. You know how a lot of places advertise “crafts” or “special activities” for kids but there’s only one lame “craft” that takes about two minutes? Well, this is the opposite. You really can’t do everything they offer in a day.
One more day trip during winter break when we were able to use one of our membership cards (the art museum’s free, however):
Imagination Station: The special stuff going on when we went there were a gingerbread exhibition (by culinary students), an amazing paper snowflake display (a man nicknamed “Dr. Snowflake” created snowflakes that go along with the whole “Night before Christmas” poem) and the traveling Hubble Telescope exhibit. The museum was packed and you couldn’t get to a lot of the hands-on activities. Also, a quick trip through the Hubble Telescope exhibit didn’t grab our attention. But … there was still plenty of fun stuff to do and I made the kids leave before they were ready because I wanted to get to the Toledo Museum of Art before it closed.
Toledo Museum of Art: We only had 1-1/2 hours here before it closed at 4. Time enough for the kids to make “netsuke” miniature clay faces, in conjunction with the current exhibit, and view the amazing 40-minute glass blowing demo. It’s almost worth the drive to Toledo just to see that! My husband was mesmerized — and he’s VERY hard to impress. We also got to see a Van Gogh, which is always fun. We definitely have to make this the first stop on our next trip to Toledo!
Here’s how we used our memberships in Pittsburgh earlier this week:
Phipps Conservatory – You never know what you’re going to find at this place — they are always coming up with incredibly creative themed shows. This year’s Winter Show had some funky snowmen out and about. The kids got a big kick out of the “hot tub” where the snowmen had “melted”, leaving only their hats, carrot noses and scarves. Less than half of the rooms had something super-special in them, though, but considering what a huge place it is, I can’t fault them too much. They also had special activities for the kids — potting a plant, making a snowman out of marshmallows, creating a snowflake.
Pittsburgh Children’s Museum – The museum’s traveling exhibit has to do with wind, and the plunger rocket making and launching part was very popular with parents and their kids. Things had changed a bit since we were there last but my favorite part is still the art studio, where you can make a silk screen print, handmade paper.
I’ve blogged before about how our family buys annual memberships to the zoo, etc. for $49-$70 then uses the heck out of them for fun and education. Here’s how we used our memberships in Cleveland:
Cleveland Botanical Garden - seeing the annual show of the gingerbread houses is one of our family traditions. You know the kids like it when they keep saying “Take my picture with this one” over and over. This year they also had some big topiary animals which were very cool. We also took a little hike outside through the snow-covered gardens. It’s such a lovely place.
Cleveland Zoo – For the two-week long “Winter Days” the weather was freezing cold but the rainforest was toasty warm — there we got to decorate and eat cookies. Outside we admired the ice sculptor at work and plodded up to the Northern Trek, where we posed for a picture with Santa and the kids made pinecone birdfeeders.
I’ve been having to travel to Vermilion a lot lately (family matter). To make the 1+ hour (one way) trip easier on the kids, the other day I took them to the Main Street Beach. It’s a small beach, but not crowded (no lifeguard, low waves and lots of algae in the water, or as all kids like to call it, “seaweed”). I took them back to the beach yesterday, but one day I’d like to really explore this “harbour town”. There’s a hoppin’ Quaker Steak and Lube right on the river, a boat (“Memphis Belle”) for river tours, lots of benches to watch the passing boats, cute shops and a maritime museum. There’s also a park called Mill Hollow-Bacon Woods Memorial Park that I’d like to check out. So many places I want to explore, so little time …
Another place to add to my growing list of places to go back and spend more time: Youngstown’s 4,400-acre Mill Creek Park. My husband and I, driving back from Pittsburgh last Saturday, stopped here for a very short time, though enough time for some inline skating and pedal boating. There are three lakes, boat rentals, fishing, 14 hiking trails, waterfalls, a formal garden, playgrounds with spray pools, a golf course, a working farm – it goes on and on. What a magnificent state we live in!
East of Cleveland you have two options for “the beach” — Mentor Headlands and its next -door neighbor Fairport Harbor. Fairport Harbor is great for families with young kids. The waves are little, the water’s shallow, rocks are minimals, there are two playgrounds and you can park right next to the beach ($3 for out-of-county residents, $2 for Lake County residents). Mentor Headlands, as I recall though I haven’t been there in about 10 years, has bigger waves and is a bigger, longer beach, but you have to walk forever to get from the parking lot to the water, and you have to walk over a bunch of big rocks when you first enter the water before you get to a sandy bottom. In both cases, the water is clean and there are lifeguards and snack spots. Since we don’t live close to a coast, this way the kids can at least have a small taste of a beach, waves, and water you can’t see the end of. Best of all, there is no worries of jellyfish, sharks and hurricanes. Though if those awful Asian carp start showing up — eeek!!!