Weekend Round Up – Just Add Water Edition (Giveaway)

Update: Congratulations to commenter 14, Jennifer M for winning the tickets! 


On Saturday morning the crew was up early for a Blogger breakfast at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. I was thrilled when I got the invite because although we’ve been to the Aquarium before, it was on a holiday (read: crowded) and the opportunity to explore at a more leisurely pace was exciting. In the first 4 months of operation the Aquarium has had over 200,000 visitors, not bad for Cleveland’s newest attraction. I’m also impressed in how Marinescape NZ Limited and Jacobs Entertainment, Inc. creatively used the existing space and worked to bring new life to the Flats. I’m all for the city re-inventing itself and the Aquarium is a wonderful example on how to do that.

After breakfast with Heather and her girls we got to see a baby alligator up close in an Animal Encounter before we were let loose among the tanks.

The freshwater tanks are close to the ground which Madman loves. He spent a solid 20 minutes running from tank to tank, excitedly pointing and yelling. His favorites are the freshwater stingrays – I finally had to drag him away to see the rest of the exhibits.


I’m sure the lobster tank is one of the most photographed exhibits in the Aquarium. It’s above you as you pass from one exhibit to the next and makes great use of the building’s existing architecture. Madman was pretty impressed.

Of course the best part of the Aquarium is the 11,000 gallon touch tank where you can get familiar with everything from sea urchins to cow nose sting rays. Matilda and Pauline’s kids had a great time practicing their “two-finger touch” petting technique with the playful rays.

The final exhibit is the super-cool underwater tube which is the shark tank. Be prepared to make a few loops through this exhibit because each time you’ll see something different. From trying to find all 15 sharks to watching the stingrays “flock” it’s always changing.

The Greater Cleveland Aquarium is adding great activities and events all the time, including yoga (we crashed the end of the class when we arrived but what a peaceful and relaxing place to practice!), overnights, and a sweet fly-fishing clinic on Father’s Day. If you become a member (passholder) you also get access to extended hours and special events.

Here’s the fun part – the Greater Cleveland Aquarium has provided me with 4 tickets to give away to my readers. Just leave a comment below telling me your favorite fish/sea creature. Giveaway ends June 21, 2012 at midnight where one commenter will be chosen by random.org. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to a Blogger breakfast and free tour of the Aquarium. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

Summer Bucket List

Since both Mark and I started news jobs this spring and since we have a Hilton Head vacation booked for October, we aren’t going anywhere major this summer. However, I can’t stand the thought of not traveling during this last summer before Matilda heads to Kindergarten, so we are making plans to do day and weekend trips. I’ve assembled a list of possible destinations & activities that are local (there and back before dinner), day trips (gone all day, home at or after bedtime), and weekend trips (those that require/deserve an overnight stay). Trying to find stuff that will be appropriate for both a 5 year old and a 2 year old can seem tough, but I think I’ve got a good start.

Vermillion, OH
– How can you pass up a town celebrating a Septaquintaquinquecentennial? It’s only an hour away and has old-town charm and great beaches. Sounds perfect for a Sunday afternoon with the kids.

Amish country tour
-Matilda and I have been reading the American Girl Kirsten books as well as Little House in the Big Woods and she can’t grasp what their lives were like. I think a visit to an Amish farm might help her understand. Plus … cheese.

Akron Zoo 
-We’ve never been and I’ve heard good things. Plus we could eat at the Blue Door Cafe which gets rave reviews.

Indians game
-Not a day goes by since the last game that Matilda doesn’t ask to go back. And I want Madman to go to his first game.

– A day and dinner in a park, inspired by Pauline, who totally let us crash the end of her family outing in the park.

Drive-In Movie
– We have a few drive-ins in the area and I have never been to a drive in movie (that I can remember – I’m sure if I have my mom or sister will pipe up in comments). I think it will be a blast to take the kids to one and they can just fall asleep in the car.

There are many more local options, many of which we will do: Parade the Circle, visits to the Aquarium, FarmPark and CBG, Wade Oval Wednesdays, Saturday’s at the Farmer’s Market, Memphis Kiddie Park, river wading/tubing, exploring downtown, festivals… but those have become so much a part of our summer routine I don’t feel the need to single them out.


Day Trips
Cedar Point 
– Do you really need an explanation? I grew up going there a couple of times each summer. We went 2 years ago and Matilda has been asking to go back ever since. Fingers crossed that my sister and her kids can come meet us. This might deserve a vacation day so we can go mid-week.

-Can you believe I’ve lived in Ohio my whole life and have never been to Put-In-Bay on South Bass Island? And I would have never thought to take a family there – given it’s reputation for drunken shenanigans. However, the Miller Boat Line has made the case for our visit and I can’t wait.

Toledo Zoo
-The best zoo in Ohio, hands down. Plus we can visit family and our old neighborhood.

-We haven’t been to the ‘Burgh since before Madman was born. Plus, we need to make a stop at Ikea so a day-trip to Pittsburgh is in the works. I think we’ll try to hit the Water Steps, the Duquesne Incline and then head over to get a new couch.

Erie, PA
– Erie is just an hour away and makes much better use of their shoreline than we do in CLE. Some hiking, kite flying and swimming would make for a great day. I do have to admit that this trip may be motivated but the fact that I just learned that Erie has a Wegmans and I want to shop there on the way home.

Overnights/Long Weekends*

Niagara Falls
The falls are only about 3 hours away and I’ve never been there! This seems kind of ridiculous. Plus I think it will be fun for the kids to go to another country. Matilda has a passport from a trip when she was a baby but it hasn’t been used since. (this makes me wonder if my own passport has expired…I need to look into that).

Grand Haven, MI
– My cousin and his family live there so it will be a cheap trip and I think a long weekend will be a perfect way to enjoy the area. Bikes, beaches, breweries … I love lake Michigan in the summer!

– Much like Vermillion above, Geneva-On-The-Lake has that old-timey, beach-resort feel. I was just out there for the first time a few weeks ago for work and the area is both beautiful and charming. It’s close enough to be a day-trip but I think a night or 2 at The Lodge at Geneva would be a perfect weekend since they have a playground, a spray park, bike rentals and easy access to the main strip of amusements.

I have to go to Chicago for work in July and we’re thinking of making a long weekend out of it. Neither of the kids have ever been to Chicago and it’s been about 4 years since my last visit. It’s one of my favorite cities so it’s a shame we haven’t been there in so long. We used to go at least once a year. I’m hoping it works out because Chicago in the summer is amazing and we have lots of friends and family there. I’m hoping we can stay downtown in close proximity to Navy Pier and the lake.

– I know Pittsburgh is listed above but I think a longer second trip might be worth it. I have friends who rave about Idlewild for young kids and it looks kind of perfect. And, since it’s just an hour away from Pittsburgh I think it’s worth an overnight so we can hit some of the bigger Pittsburgh attractions on the second day. I’d love to go back to the Children’s Museum or check out their zoo.

*Have any of you used a Groupon or Living Social hotel deal? There are some decent ones out there for a few of these locations but I’m nervous to try them. If you’ve had any experience with them, let me know in comments!

Whew! That’s a long list. I’m not sure we will have the time to cross all of these things off our list this summer, but we should never have to say “There’s nothing to do!”