Christmas Rocks & Rockmill Brewery

December 10, 2017 – On a chilly Sunday morning, I decided to knock an Ohio Hike off my bucket list.  I’ve had my eye on Christmas Rocks for a while but hadn’t had a chance made time to head down that way.  It did not disappoint!  A great hike with a great friend and a great beer afterwards at the stunning Rockmill Brewery made for a fantastic day. Continue reading “Christmas Rocks & Rockmill Brewery”

ZipZone Adventure Park

I’ve been a big fan of ZipZone since they opened in 2013.  I’ve gone ziplining there several times and have thoroughly enjoyed every time.  So when they announced the new Adventure Park was now open, I knew I needed to go check it out.  My son’s 16th birthday provided just the opportunity!

ZipZone opened their new adventure park in August (2017).  This new area features a Kid’s Park section and the Adventure Park section.  The Kid’s Park is designed for children aged 4 – 7 with an adult to supervise/help them out.  The Adventure Park is for 7 and up. Continue reading “ZipZone Adventure Park”

Road Trip: A Day on Kelleys Island

May 19 – 20 – For a spring camping trip, we decided to hit up Kelleys Island.  This small island in Lake Erie is just under 4 1/2 square Miles.  It has a nice mix of natural areas to explore, restaurants to check out, and touristy things to do.  It has a little something for everybody.  The Chamber of Commerce site is a good starting point for planning what to see.

Getting There

Half of the fun of a trip is the journey, right?  That was the certainly the case for us.

We headed out of North Columbus at about 4:00 Friday afternoon.  The Kelleys Island Ferry out of Marblehead was the best route for us.  It took us just under 2 1/2 hours to get there and we arrived just before 6:30.  Most of the drive is on two- lane country highway with the occasional small town.  Tip: there are, like, no good food options on this route,  at all, not even a McDonald’s.  Eat before you take off and pack snacks.   (You might find a restaurant/diner/bar in downtown Bucyrus if you want to sit down.)

KI Ferry Boat from the KI Shore

The Ferry

When I was planning the trip, I saw that in mid-May, the ferry leaves Marblehead every 30 minutes until about 7:00.  Then it’s every hour.  (Check their schedule before you go.)  We were aiming for that 6:30 ferry so we could get our camp setup and cook dinner when we got there.  I did not account for the amount of people heading over after work on Fridays…and we were ahead of the busy season.  We didn’t get onto a ferry until after 7:30.  Since we were camping, we needed to take our car across so we just had to wait.  (If you aren’t camping, park at the ferry lot and just go across on foot or with your bicycle.  There is no need for a car.)

View from the Ferry

Living in the middle of Ohio, a ferry is very novel experience for all of us.  Waiting to get on the ferry is a lot of just waiting.  We were able to kill the time by watching the ferries come and go, watching people move around, and a quick trip into the restroom/vending machine.

The ferry ride is about 30 minutes or so.  We really enjoyed watching the shore line disappear, seeing the waves crash over the side of the boat 😱, and watching Cedar Point appear.  The cars were so packed in and the waves were so choppy, no one got out of the cars at all.  It was quite a ride! The waves were coming up enough that some splashed in my open car window.

On the Island

The campground is just a short drive from the ferry landing.  All of the island is a short drive from the ferry landing.  It’s a small island.   If you are driving, stay aware.  There are lots of people on bicycles, in golf carts, and on foot in the roadway.

Camping

Our campsite, close to the lake

We opted to stay at the Kelleys Island State Park Campground for a couple of reasons: We enjoy camping and it’s a whole lot cheaper than a hotel.  The Kelleys Island Campground is a pretty decent spot as far as state park camping goes.  There are a number of sites very near the lake, sites around a couple different loops, and a handful of yurts to rent.

We opted for a site very near the lake, which would have been super cool if it was better weather.  We had strong winds coming off the lake that made a fire impossible Friday night.  About half of the folks setting up tents Friday night bailed out at some point.  Saturday our weather was better and I was able to get a breakfast fire going.  Pay attention to the weather if you’re choosing the lake view sites.  There is no protection from the wind.

There are houses to rent and other places to stay if you don’t want to camp but want to stay on the island.

Dining on the Island

Camp breakfast on point!

The weather was so windy Friday night and it was after 8:00 when we got to the camp site.  My patience ran out and trying to cook our planned meal wasn’t going to happen.   We ended up running back into the main area and having dinner at a restaurant.    I made up for it the next morning with an amazing camp breakfast!

Island House for Dinner

There are several places to eat on the island if cooking over a campfire isn’t your thing.  We opted for the Island House because it looked less bar like than some of the other options.  I’m very grateful that they held the kitchen open for us for a few extra minutes so we could eat.

 

Exploring the Island

We spent Saturday bicycling around the island and checking things out.  Many people bike or use golf carts and the little bit of car traffic is aware of this. So riding in the road, even for the kids, is very comfortable.

From the campground, we headed down to check out the Historical Museum and Church to learn a little about the island’s history.  The museum is pretty small but has a lot to look at.

From there, we biked down along the southern coast checking out things as we went.  Inscription Rock is one of my favorites.   After we got tired of checking out the coast (and fighting the wind), we decided to go in search of Ice Cream.  We were a bit early for the ice cream places to be open, but finally found some back up by the campground.

Restored with some ice cream, and a break from the bicycle seat, we went on up to check out the glacial grooves.  The KI Glacial Grooves are the best example of glacial grooves in the world that you can actually get to.  They are pretty cool if you are into Geologic features.  However the chain link fence and slightly worn down nature of the park leaves something to be desired.

After checking out the beach at the north end of the island, we headed back to camp to eat some lunch and decide our next steps.

Bailing Out

We watched the forecast for a bit and decided to bail out a day early.  It was predicted to rain most of the next 24 hours.  Based on the previous nights wind and inability to start a fire, we decided we’d rather miss out on a little fun than be miserable just sitting in the tent, wet.  We were all a little disappointed, but I think it was the right call.   (And… honestly, my thought process was this: “If it gets really bad, I can’t get off this damn island until morning.  There is no driving home in the middle of the night.”  Sometimes you just have to walk away.)

Last Views

On the way out we took in a short hike at the North Pond State Nature Preserve and on the East Quarry Trails.   Both were great hikes and we really enjoyed them.  The East Quarry is almost other-worldly.  We only walked part way around the East Quarry area due to threatening weather.  But we got a good feel for it.

The rain started coming down just as we finished up hiking, so back to the ferry we went.  The trip back across the lake was more choppy than the way over.  We were all pretty happy to land on solid ground back in Marblehead.

Marblehead

While in Marblehead, we headed over to check out the Marblehead Lighthouse.   Marblehead is the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation in the Great Lakes.  The park takes only a few minutes to explore but is worth a stop.

Heading Home

We headed on back to Columbus after the lighthouse.  We all had a good time but were happy to be out of the weather and back in our own beds.  We made our planned campfire food at home when we got there, which was a lot of fun.  S’mores made under the broiler worked out quite nicely!

Yummmmmm!!!!!

What We Spent

We were $92, round trip for the ferry ride (1 car, 3 people 12 and over)
Campsite $70 for 2 nights ahead of the season
Dinner due to lack of fire – $35
Ice Cream – $12ish for 3 cones

Otherwise our costs were limited to the food we took up with us, which wasn’t much more than I would normally spend for groceries if we were at home.  And about a tank of gas.  The Museum was free the day we went (normally it’s a couple of dollars), and everything else we did was free.

Final Thoughts

There are other things on the island that we didn’t see.  There are a couple of other hiking trails that are short.  And there is a winery and a brewery to check out.  I went to both of those on a previous trip with a girl friend.  They are both good, though not anything super special, if you are into that kind of thing.

We all felt like we got a good taste and overview of the island on our adventure.  The weather was a bit of a bummer for us, but we all had fun.

 

 

Road Trip: Holden Arboretum

Holden Arboretum

For a Saturday Family Adventure, we decided on a trip up to the Holden Arboretum. This park has been on my bucket list since they opened the canopy walk in the last couple years.

What It Is

I explained an arboretum to my kids as an “outside tree museum in a park.”  Which made sense to them.  Holden Arboretum is 3,600 acres of a grounds to explore with 20 miles of trails.  We (obviously) didn’t see the whole thing in one trip.  Holden has a canopy walk and a very tall tower to explore for a small extra fee.

Our Experience

Hourglass Pond

We drove up to Kirtland, Ohio (on the east side of Cleveland) on a beautiful Saturday.  The park is located in the middle of some residential areas with many other metro parks near by.

The arboretum is open from 9:00 – 5:00 daily.  We spent about 3 hours total walking around and exploring before we ran out of steam.

What We Spent

This is on the cheaper side for admissions.  Adults are $10, Children 6 – 17 are $4, under 6 is free.  The Canopy Walk & Tower ticket is $4/$2 additional.  There are a few discount options for active military and AAA members.  There are also a variety of membership options available.  If you think you’ll go up seasonally and have a big family, this would make sense.  (Side note: I do wish places had Single Parent Family membership options.  I don’t have 2 adults.  Family memberships are just never a good deal for me….. grr.)

  • 1 Adult, 2 Kids Admission to the Arboretum – $18
  • Canopy Walk & Tower for each of us – $8
  • AAA Discount – $3
  • Total Spent: $26

What We Did

We decided to head back to the Canopy Walk and Tower first.  Not knowing quite what to expect, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get through these.

Canopy Walk

The Murch Canopy Walk consists of a few different suspended bridges between platforms.  You feel like you are walking among the canopy of the trees.  There is a small amount of movement to the bridges but not too scary at all.  It was quite pretty and you got a good look at the top parts of the trees.  To walk the whole canopy walk takes about 5 – 10 minutes.  I was a little disappointed by the short length of the thing (and you can only go around once), but it was pretty cool overall.

View from tower

The Kalberer Emergent Tower is one super tall tower with 195 steps to the top.  This was stunning and our favorite.  You are waaaaayyyyyy up above the trees and get a good look at the overall landscape and Lake Erie in the distance.  The top of the tower sways quite a bit in the wind which is always thrilling.  There are platforms along the way up to stop and rest if needed.   This attraction took a little longer, probably 15 minutes to walk all the way up casually, enjoy the view a bit, and come back down.

For the rest of our time we explored a couple of the trails.  We spent a good bit of time walking the Woodland Trail with a few side trails to see a boardwalk and a meditation spot.  We looked at the rhododendron section on our way to the canopy walk and tower.  And we checked out some of the “Buckeye Buds Adventure Woods” due to a wrong turn.   We did a super fast walk around part of the butterfly garden – we were getting tired, hungry, and it isn’t butterfly season so this was not our favorite.

Our Tips

There was a small selection of food available; it looked like some group was selling hot dogs, chips, etc. as a fund raiser.  There is a large picnic area near the visitor’s center that would be great for a packed lunch.

Everything here is outdoors.  The visitor’s center doesn’t have much inside.  Be prepared for the weather.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the property, but not on the canopy walk, tower, or in any buildings.

Final Thoughts

This was a great way to walk around for a few hours.  It is a long drive from Columbus and would be a great thing to add in to a weekend trip to Cleveland.  We did stop in Eastlake for an early dinner then to Willowick for some ice cream.  We tried to find a spot to check out the lake but only found one park that had a little overlook area.

We all had a nice time and enjoyed the arboretum overall.  The tower was definitely the highlight for all.