Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

DragonSunday, December 4, the kids and I decided to check out the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair Grounds (it’s in the Natural Resources area of the State Fair Grounds).  This special event runs through January 2, 2017.

The Crew

The kids (12 & 15) and I went to this event.  I had to drag them along to get them to go, but once there, they seemed to enjoy it. (When we were getting ready for bed, I thanked my 15-year-old son for going to the festival with me.  He replied “It really was pretty cool, other than the rain. — I had fun.”  You don’t get much better than that from a 15-year-old young man! )

What It Is

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival boasts 39 beautiful lantern displays ranging from a 200 feet long illuminated dragon to glowing tulip-lined walk ways. The lanterns are created by hand using silk fabric, steel frames, and tens of thousands of LED lights. (http://www.ohiolanternfestival.com/)

There are tables of various things for sale from cheepy little light up stuff to hand crafted paper cutout cards. Its a little bit of a mix of things.

They have performances on the amphitheater stage. This was a small troupe of performers with some fun acts (juggling, acrobatics, dancing) and lasted about 20 minutes.

They have food and drinks available. They had an “American” station that had burgers, brats, fries, etc.  There was a “Chinese” station that had lo mein, fried wontons, rice, etc.  A “Sweets” station with fortune cookies, fried oreos, fried snickers.  And then a variety of drinks from Hot Cocoa to cider to beer to cocktails.

A Pandorama <-- clever!
– A Pandorama <– Clever! (Caption courtesy of the 12 year old)

Our Experience

I’ve had several people ask me “Was it worth it? It seemed expensive”.  To which I have replied a very non-committal  “eeeee…..yeah?!?”.  Depends on how you value this kind of thing.  I absolutely love lights and lighted exhibits.  This was also something new to Columbus and was quite different than other light exhibits at this time of year.  So, for me, yeah.. it was worth it.  Had the weather been a bit better it would have been better.

What I spent:

  • Parking – $5
  • Admission – $15 for me, $10 for each kid under 17 = $35 for us (They have a family 4 pack that is $40 for 2 adults &2 kids, which brings the cost per person down a bit. I’ve yet to find places that give single-parent families much of a break on these things. 🙂 )
  • Hot Cocoa – $3 each – $9 for us each to have one.  (They were a good size cup, so $3 seemed pretty reasonable.)
  • Total: $49

If you have a bunch of “I want.. i want… i want” people in your group, food could get expensive here as could the lure of the little toys and what not.

What we did:

We walked around the lights and really enjoyed them, it was nice variety of shapes and scenes.  It probably took us just about 30 minutes to walk thru and take pictures.  We then had to wait about 30 minutes to see the 6:30 performance. All told, we were there just under 2 hours but a lot of that was spent standing around the food area just waiting.  If the weather was nice, we may have walked back through the lights, but it was a chilly rainy night.

We watched the performances and all really enjoyed that.  We had a lot of “wow.. how’d he do that!?!?” moments.  It’s no Cirque du Soleil, but it was enjoyable.

Our Tips

Everything is outdoors.  Only the food area had a covering, but it is very open.  Dress for the weather!!! We were wet and cold when we left.  The amphitheater seating is all completely open to the elements.  If it’s been raining or snowing, you may want to throw a poncho or plastic bag in your pocket before you go so that you have something dry to sit on.

We spent a lot of time waiting around for the performance.  If you can get there shortly before the 6:30 or 8:00 performance, then walk through the lights after you could better manage the time.  My kids just started to get on each other’s nerves before the show.  I noticed families with little kids having the same issue as they were waiting.dsc_0456

Final Thoughts

For me, this was a fun evening out without too much time commitment or pressure.  It would make a good week night outing if there isn’t much homework. The fair grounds are relatively close and easy to get to.  I really love lights, so it was very enjoyable for me.  Both kids seemed to enjoy everything other than the weather. We call it a win.


Balanced Rock

Balanced Rock

The other weekend, my sister and I decided to take the kids out for a quick hike in Hocking Hills.  I’ve heard of Balanced Rock but hadn’t seen it, so we decided to give that a try.

Hike Distance: About 2 miles, about 30 – 45 minutes depending on how fast you hike.
Trail Condition: This trail is largely on a bridal trail. The horses tear up the path quite a bit.  So it can get very muddy and sloppy if it’s been wet. If it’s a nice day, watch for Horses coming.  There are a couple of spots with significant drop offs.  The trail is wide, but keep a hand on small kids that are prone to running off.

Date Hiked: May 22nd
The Crew: My sister and I and a brood of children.  She had an extra with her, so we had kids that were 14, 11, 8, and 2 that were 6-ish.  We also had 1 dog.

Getting There

The trail head is near Conkles Hollow on County road 11/Big Pine Road.  Park in the lot for the Rappelling/climbing area.  Then cross the street. You’ll see a small kiosk near the road and a couple of brown wood posts marking the area.


The Hike

From the kiosk near the road, follow the path back and cross the I-beam Bridge. (Points to the 2nd Grader for realizing it was a big I-Beam.)  Once across the beam, you’ll come to an intersection where a main trail goes left and right and a small trail goes straight back. There is another Kiosk here.  Take the trail to your left.

From hereIMAG1521, the hike is quite simple. Just stay on the trail.  You’ll see blazes every now and then but they aren’t overly necessary. The property adjacent to the trail is all private property, so don’t wander off the path.  (Pro tip: Blazes are a great way to keep the middle kids busy when hiking.  Make then responsible for spotting them.)


The hike winds up a hill which is a bit steep but certainly manageable.  You’ll come along side some really neat rock faces and walk along them for a while, eventually coming to a bit of a rock shelter.  Going on up you’ll see a crevice open up a bit and then come to a wide open area with a small fence for tying up horses.  Balanced Rock is behind you.

The Trail

As mentioned above, the trail can get pretty muddy from horse traffic.  There are a couple spots that were pretty deep with mud. We managed to generally find edges of dry to walk along. We had to cross a very small stream. The adults could step over, but the kids needed a hand to avoid wet feet.  Those of us in Keen sandals had no issues.

There are a few cliffy spots, so pay attention to where you’re going.  There is also a decent amount of horse poop along the way to watch out for.IMAG1520

Our Tips

Be prepared for mud. Bridal trails seem to be a bit mucky year round.  Hiking shoes or a change of shoes are a good idea here.

This trail isn’t so long that you need snacks. If you are joining several hikes in the area, the open area 1/2 way through this one is a good spot to stop and sit.



What It Cost Us

Not a thing, other than gasoline to get there. …and we all crammed into my car, so even gas was a bargain.



Overall Impressions

This is not the nicest trail in the area, but the cliff faces and Balanced rock are worth the effort.  All of the kids were able to manage this hike easily, but we did keep the smaller ones close.  Not too many people walk this trail, so we had it pretty much to ourselves on a nice day.

Trail Map

(whoops…forgot to stop the app when we took off, so I don’t have accurate statistics.)



Checking out Olentangy Mini-Golf

Mini-GolfTo celebrate the start of summer vacation, the kids and I headed over to the new Olentangy Mini-Golf to check it out.   This new Mini-Golf course opened in Delaware county near 23 & Lewis Center road.

The facility and course are still pretty new which makes it quite nice.  Everything was clean and tidy and in great shape. I saw on Facebook that they had just recently gotten their landscaping done and it looked quite nice.  They have a couple small, decorative houses throughout that are parts of different holes.  The kids found those fascinating to look at.  And we all three thought they did a really nice job with the decoration; very cute, not tacky.


They have two 18-hole courses that you can play – Diamond & Ruby.  When we paid we were told the Diamond course is a little harder, but our scores showed differently.  We did much better on that one.  The holes on the course are more mini-golf than putt-putt; in that they have bumps and angles and things to go around, but you’re not shooting through any moving windmills or opening/closing things.  There are a couple holes where you hit into a top hole and the pipe feeds it down to a bottom level.  The final hole on each course is hitting up a bit of an incline into a large open space.  Both the kids and I found this disappointing that there was no actual hole to hit into and to try for one last hole-in-one.


I did find their prices a bit higher than I would have expected when we got there, but I’ve apparently not played mini-golf in a while. A quick search  shows them to be on par (get it!) with other places in the area and are a little lower than Magic Mountain.

  • Olentangy Mini-golf: Adult $7, Child $5
  • Magic Mountain “Adventure golf”” Adult $8, Child $5.50
  • Westerville Mini-golf: Adult $6, Child $4


Our Tips:

A second round of 18-holes is an additional $2. They have this presented at the counter as “1 round for $7, or 2 for $9” and I got the impression that they wanted you to decide up front if you were playing 1 or 2 rounds.  They were not busy at all when we were there, and the guy at the counter said “If you decide on a 2nd round, just let me know and I’ll just charge you the $2.”  I’m glad we went that way. We played 18 and decided we wanted the second round.  By about the 10th hole of the 2nd round we were getting tired and the kids were crabby.  Little ones may not make it for a 2nd round. I’d ask if you can add the 2nd round at the $2 rate if you decide to play more.

There was not a lot of shade on this course, on a super hot, sunny Columbus day, it might be a little brutal.

They had a few concessions, but not much.

What it Costs Us:

We ended up being 2 adults and 1 child.  My oldest is getting too old for child prices anymore, darn.

  • First round: $19 ($7 x 2, $5)
  • Second round: $6 ($2 x 3)
  • Total: $25

We were there for about 90 minutes total playing all 36 holes.  There was hardly anyone else there, so we didn’t have to wait at all.

Final Thoughts:

Nice, compact, clean & new, not terribly expensive overall.  Good way to get out and do something without a super long time or cost commitment.  We’d certainly go again.



Cosi – Sherlock Holmes Exhibit


COSI logo
Logo downloaded from cosi.org

COSI is a Columbus classic destination. If you were a child in the 80s, you likely have fond memories of “the old COSI” on Broad Street: the Great Gravity Gizmo in the entry way, the animatronic presidents,  the hard plastic seats in the planetarium, walking across the street to the first Wendy’s Restaurant (Wanna take a trip down memory lane? Check this out.… ) To enjoy “the new COSI”, you need to forget about the old one and enjoy it in it’s own right. With traveling exhibits, updated technology, and lots of hands on; COSI is a great cold day ‘get the kids out’ activity. Just make sure to bring your credit card.

With yet another day off school, we decided to go and check out the newly opened Sherlock Holmes Exhibit (officially “The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes”.) Note, this special exhibit is an extra fee on top of the regular entrance fee.

The Crew:

I took four kids to this exhibit – ages 3, 6, 9, and 12.

The Experience:

You will receive a timed ticket to enter exhibit, so plan accordingly. We opted for the very next time slot so that we could go straight to the exhibit and go through it before the kids started to melt and so that I didn’t have to pull them out of something to get there on time. Upon entering the exhibit, you are told that there are no cameras/photography allowed, which is pretty standard for a traveling exhibit. Also, no cell phones. You are asked to step outside if you need to make/take a phone call/text.  (You can handle it…it took us about 90 minutes to get through… just long enough that your texting fingers will get twitchy, but hang in there… remember It’s quality time with the kids.)

This exhibit is nicely broken up into a few different sections. You’ll learn about the history of the Sherlock stories, see some movie artifacts, explore early forensic techniques, and try to solve the mystery of a crime scene. You are each given a little notebook to track your progress through the exhibit and to participate in the different displays. There are several different stations where you stop and figure something out then mark the book with a stamp, punch, rubbing, or impression. And, like any good exhibit, there is a gift shop at the end.

The kids got a little bored with the museum style part of the exhibit in the first section. They aren’t much for reading placards and history, so we moved through this section a bit quicker than I would have liked. There was a good bit of information on why Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote what he did.

The middle of the exhibit is much more hands on.  There are a variety of stations where you will learn about various developments of the period (ballistics, cosmetics, Scotland Yard.) The 3-year old enjoyed stamping her book at each station. The older three seemed to give it some effort and hopefully learned something.IMG_20140217_125222_106

Eventually you come upon a crime scene. You are given different elements of the scene to observe and record in your notebook. Then you head off to different stations to learn and try to deduce what really happened.  If you figure out all of the right answers you get a secret message at the end.

The three older kids seemed to really get into the process. They were able to figure out most of the stations with just a little direction from me. There is one chemistry station that none of them seemed to get (and, honestly, i found rather confusing and overwhelming). Several times I caught them talking to each other trying to work out what they think happened. The 3 year old had fun stamping her book with help from the big ones. This exhibit held my attention as well. You should note that Blood Spatter Analysis is one section of this. There are machines that spray colored water to show different blood spatter patterns so I didn’t find it to be graphic. There is also talk of someone getting shot and possibly murdered.

At the end there was a bit of a “that’s it?” feeling for the kids. There is a long narrative that explains what really happened and pulls everything together.  This was too much reading for the kids and was written in the style of Sherlock Holmes, which they didn’t really understand.

We explored some of the other exhibits after lunch and made a full day of it.  COSI has a new exhibit on Energy which is nicely done. More on it in a future post.

Tips We Learned:

  • This exhibit took about 90 minutes for us to go through. This was a good chuck of our day at COSI and we didn’t have time to see some of the other exhibits we wanted to.
  • Little kids won’t get too much out of this one, but there seems to be enough stamping of paper and pushing of buttons to keep them occupied.
  • If you are sensitive to crime scenes, stab wounds, and blood (or if you wish to keep your kids away from these things), this exhibit may not be for you. Go with solo before hand to see it if you are concerned. My personal opinion was that it was handled well and scientifically.
  • Cheap Child Care?Use the lockers. Then you aren’t trying to carry your coats with you in the exhibit. It’s a $1 well spent. The lockers are plenty large enough. … and if need be serve as child care..kidding.

What It Cost:
One problem I have with COSI is that I find it to be too expensive. We don’t go all that often because of the cost. If you do go frequently a membership is well worth it. We had one for a couple of years and got COSI’d out. So now we just go once or twice a year.

Here is what we spent this trip:

  • General Parking in the lot – $5 (take your parking ticket in with you to get it validated. The lot is a public parking lot and costs a bit more if you don’t pay for parking inside COSI.)
  • 1 Adult – $25.95 (General exhibits are $17.95, Sherlock is another $8.)
  • 4 Kids – $20.95 each (General exhibits are $12.95, Sherlock is another $8)
  • 1 Locker – $1
  • We packed our lunch to save there.  There is a decent cafe onsite. – $0
  • But I caved on snacks. There is a really cool machine that does frozen yogurt…for $5/each.  – $20

I had a coupon for one free kid which saved us $12.95.  So our total for 5 of us was $122.80. This is definitely on the high end for us for entertainment but it was a great day and worth the splurge.