What to do with Kids in a Cleveland Winter

As a parent, January in Cleveland is hard…  you’re staring down about 3 more months of being shut inside due to cold, snow, rain or sleet. Of course we sled, we ski, we play in the snow but we can’t always be outside. Even if it gets up into the 50s, it’s likely to be pouring rain (like this week) and you can’t really enjoy it. So, as we are all wistfully dreaming of the days we can chase our kids back outside into the yard again, here are some of our favorite cabin-fever busters:

Rockefeller Greenhouse
I feel like I might be breaking some sort of Cleveland-Parent code by sharing this, but oh well! The greenhouse is owned by the city and is part of the long, narrow park which is on the land donated by John Rockefeller. Best of all, it’s free! And, it’s never crowded, which leads me to believe it’s a closely guarded secret. In fact, in the many times we’ve been there we are usually the only ones there. This means the kids can get a little crazy without bothering anyone. Our last visit was on MLK day because I knew the museums in University Circle would be packed. There was a film crew shooting a commercial there but we stayed out of their way. The kids burned energy, played games and had fun and I didn’t once have to say “stop climbing on the furniture!”

Cleveland Art Museum
As I mentioned, it’s 600,000 square feet of very kid friendly, free space.

Cleveland Botanical Garden
While visiting the magical Hershey Children’s Garden and the 10 acres of lush outdoor gardens is a natural activity in the spring and summer, the CBG is one also one of our favorite winter activities, too. The 2 large glasshouses and as well as the toys & books (now located upstairs) they have out for kids makes this a good place to blow off some steam. And, if it’s dry outside it’s still a fantastic place to run around without getting muddy. Their café serves fresh, seasonal food that the kids love. Kids are just $4 (under 3 is free) but the $73 family membership is well worth it for how often we visit.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History
Some people with toddlers and young kids overlook this museum as a place to burn daylight. We love it because there are dinosaurs, lots of buttons to push, and space to move around. Yes, the entire facility can seem a bit dusty and old so the planned renovation is much needed. However little kids don’t care, they just see polar bears, alligators and moon rocks.  Hidden in the basement is the Smead Discovery Center, a hands-on area with animal pelts, puzzles, books, toys, a few lizards and other cool stuff. Unless it’s pouring rain we always take a walk through the Perkins Wildlife Center outside to say hi to the owls, deer and fox that make it their home. Get there at 10, outside snacks are allowed (but you can only eat them in the café), leave by naptime…perfect morning. Again, the $75 family membership is a great deal and pays for itself in 2-3 trips. Bonus: you can use your membership for free entry at other science centers and museums like the Field Museum in Chicago or COSI in Columbus.

We did this for the first time recently and had a fun evening. It was surprisingly expensive for the 4 of us ($50+!) but was a fun night out. Both kids did well – each got a strike! It was an activity we’ll save for when we’re desperate due to the price, but I was pleased with how much a 2.5 year old and 6 year old enjoyed it.

Matilda’s winter break was longer than Madman’s so we had a couple of days where he went to daycare but she was home. One of those days I took her to the JumpYard in North Royalton on a tip from Amelia. It was a blast. Weekdays are only $7 and for that she jumped out all her energy for nearly 3 hours. We sunk another $5 into the arcade games. The free wifi meant I got some work done while she romped. The toddler area was nice and big and looked like the kids there were having fun. The morning was pretty open but when we left (around 1:00) it was packed…plan accordingly. This was worth the drive from the eastside and I’ll take Madman when we go back.

Great Big Home + Garden Show
I know, it sounds silly to take kids to a home and garden expo. But think about it: a giant indoor space in which your kid can run around and be a goofball to his heart’s content. We went last year and the kids spent hours exploring all the landscapes set up, checking out the houses and climbing on play structures. At $14 per adult plus parking it’s not cheap, but sometimes spending $30 to spend the entire afternoon out of the house is so worth it.

Rapid + Tower City = Tired Preschooler
We haven’t done this recently but both kids love to ride the Rapid so this is a nice one to keep in your back pocket for when you really need to get out of the house for the afternoon. Kids 6 and under ride free with a paying adult ($5). Mark has a monthly pass for his commute so for $5 we can ride downtown, burn off some energy running around Tower City, and then ride home. Now, I know Tower City doesn’t offer much in shopping, but it’s a beautiful space in which the kids can get some exercise. If it’s not below zero or sleeting we might walk over to grab a bite at Noodlecat, too.


While we love living a couple of blocks from our local library sometimes it can be fun to explore other libraries. We like the ones in Cleveland Heights Lee Road branch and South Euclid branch in the Telling Mansion both for architecture and their children’s sections. We don’t usually get books (because we don’t want them to get mixed up with other library books at home) but spending an afternoon in a new-to-us space can be enough to keep the winter blahs away.

There are other standbys, too (swimming, GLSC, Farm Park, Aquarium) but these were some of our new favorites or hidden gems. So – what are your favorite winter blow-off-steam/burn-daylight activities for the kids?

Sunday at the Cleveland Museum of Art

As you know, my main goal every weekend is to get the kids out of the house. On Saturday it was warm enough to shoo them into the backyard for a bit, but Sunday dawned bitter cold so an inside activity was needed. I texted Mark at 9:20 this morning “CMA today? they open @ 10” and he replied with a “sure” (what? you don’t text your spouse who is in the same house as you?). By 9:58 we had parked in front of the Cleveland Museum of Art and were on our way inside. Mark had taken Matilda on a daddy/daughter date a few weeks back so they had seen the new atrium but this was Madman and my first time. Matilda couldn’t wait to show us.

Doing her best Vanna White impression to show me the huge expanse of the atrium

We are so incredibly lucky to have such an amazing art museum less than 10 minutes from our house. And it’s free. The new addition of the atrium and Gallery One is just breathtaking. After romping around the atrium and sneaking a peak the interactive wall of all the CMA works, we headed to the galleries.

Matilda taking in Monet’s Water Lilies (Agapanthus)

Like most women my age, the Impressionist galleries are my favorites. It seems Matilda likes them, too. But she declared this piece her favorite (for this trip, anyway. Every CMA visit leads to a new favorite):

A Rothko in the Contemporary Collection. She wants Mark to paint one like it for our living room

Madman was the wild-card of the day and he was a real trooper as we strolled the galleries. He likes the ancient art galleries and especially the Morton Mandel Armor Court. But today his favorite thing was not inside the CMA… it was the view of the “diggers” across the street at CWRU as seen from the Glass Box.

We had lunch from the new Provenance Café, which was amazing. We had 3 entrees split between the 4 of us and we were all beyond happy.

Post-peanut butter and banana sandwich happiness

It was nearly noon so we decided to go back to Gallery One to get a chance to play with the touch-screen wall of all the museum’s works. It’s pretty amazing (and apparently we were some of the first to use it! It doesn’t officially open until tomorrow). Next visit, we’ll borrow one of their iPads, too. Such fantastic technology coupled with the art!

After that we headed for the doors but stumbled onto the most perfect play area for the kids. I wish we had known about it sooner because we could have spent an hour in just that spot. It had sketching seats and frames to hang your artwork, Tegu blocks for sculptures and mobiles to build. There were books, and tents and art to touch, even some touch-screen displays. We had to drag the kids away. They can’t wait to go back.

While certainly not our first or last trip, this was one of our more memorable trips… perhaps because of all the new things to see and do. Or maybe because it was our first time as a family to be there while not under construction. I know some people shy away from taking younger kids to the CMA but you shouldn’t. They are extremely patient with kids, have tons of amenities (changing tables, stroller rental, high chairs). I do recommend getting there early, it was starting to get crowded by noon.

We frequent University Circle but for some reason the CMA has always been the last on our list from all the places to visit. I think we’ll be re-thinking that strategy over the next few months as we look for ways to keep the kids entertained and out of the house.

non-disclosure: nothing to disclose. I just wanted to share our family fun day at the CMA!

Splish Splash Swim Bash at Goldfish Swim School (Free!)

I’ve been a swimmer from before I could remember. Seriously… I don’t remember learning how to swim, I just remember always swimming. We lived at the pool in the summers (bonus of a mom who was a teacher and had her summers off), and I was on a swim team from age 6 until high school graduation. I think swimming is beyond a sport, it’s a life skill. As you can imagine, I want to pass this love of the water to my kids.

We’ve had Matilda in lessons on and off in the past. But, either the instructor was not good, the water was cold or the times were just so inconvenient that we stopped the lessons. Madman – poor 2nd child that he is – had never been in lessons. That is until Sonali Morris (whom I knew only on Twitter) along with some others said they were opening a Goldfish Swim School nearby. After reading about it we signed up as soon as we could and we were there the week it opened.

Madman and Mark in the Mini2 class

Why is Goldfish different? First of all they are all about lessons. You’re not jockeying for space with water aerobics classes or fitness swimmers. Unlike other indoor pools which are kept cold for competitive swimmers, Goldfish keeps their water a a tepid 90 degrees. Their classes are small since they keep their ratio at 4 to 1 (so far my kids have been in classes with only 1 other kid!). They have a great area for parents to watch the lessons (and free wifi!). Best of all their program works. After 4 weeks of lessons, Matilda has moved up a level because she can do freestyle and circle breathing! She is so excited.

Look at that freestyle! Perhaps we should start planning for the 2020 Olympics?

Movin’ on up to the next class!

We’ve also been to their family swim times because – why not? It’s great fun and they have a ton of awesome pool toys for the kids to play with. 90 minutes in the pool guarantees an easy bedtime. Their facility is built with kids in mind – clean changing rooms and bathrooms, lots of places to stash their stuff, a turtle tank, chalkboard and books galore make any downtime easy to handle. Plus they do parties (which reminds me, I need to get Matidla’s next birthday party scheduled at Goldfish ASAP!).

Are you sold yet? Want to chance to check it out yourself? Perfect! Because Goldfish Swim School is holding a community open house. Come to the Splish Splash Swim Bash on Saturday, January 26 from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. It will have a free four-hour open swim session, scavenger hunt, kid-friendly entertainment, photo station, prizes, giveaways, facility tours, snacks and more. You’ll get to met the funny dynamo that is Sonali and the whole Goldfish team. And you’ve got nothing to loose – it’s free and likely to be about 33 degrees outside. Doesn’t a 90 degree pool sound much better?

We’ll be there and we hope to see you too.

Goldfish Swim School
4670 Richmond Road, Suite 100
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128

Disclaimer: I was thrilled to help out with some marketing when Goldfish starting working on their facility because it was a group of local parents starting their own business. I’m again thrilled to help them promote their free community event because we LOVE our time in the Goldfish pool. We’ve been a paying customer since they opened but we are receiving a month of free lessons in exchange for this post. 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. 

Cleveland: Disney On Ice Rockin’ Ever After – Ticket Giveaway

Congratulations to Melissa for winning the tickets! Check your email and please respond ASAP!

Please note: I removed comment #1 (from my sister, who did not want to enter the contest) and #20 (received after the deadline). I put the remaining 18 comments in order and Melissa’s comment was #13 of the eligible comments.  Thanks everyone for entering! I hope you take advantage of the discounts offered below and go see Rockin’ Ever After while it’s in Cleveland. 

I can’t wait to surprise the kids this weekend. Matilda has been asking if they’ll ever put Merida from Brave in Disney on Ice (she’s obsessed with Brave) and she doesn’t know that we’re taking her to see Rockin’ Ever After on Friday. If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be excited about going to a Disney ice show I would have laughed. But, this will be our 4th one and I love them. And guess what? Merida is one of the stars…

About the show: Get ready to rock out with some of the most magical idols of all in a musical showcase that features the hottest tunes and talent from across the kingdom in Disney On Ice presents Rockin’ Ever After! Jam to a Scottish jig as a group of royal contenders from the latest Disney•Pixar film, Brave, competes to win the heart of headstrong, sharp-shooting Merida, making her ice debut!

Experience a show-stopping performance as Sebastian breaks out of his shell for one night only to make waves with Ariel. A chorus of harmless hooligans from Tangled unleashes musical mayhem when they get a visit from the sassy and spirited Rapunzel and her charming ally Flynn.

And, get your feet moving as the Beast and his castle’s enchanted entourage take center stage in a spectacular show for Belle. It will be a rockin’ remix of royalty when Disney On Ice brings this superstar line-up to Cleveland! 

Where: Quicken Loans Arena
When: January 11-21, 2013

Show Times:
Friday, January 11th at 7pm
Saturday, January 12th at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm
Sunday, January 13th at 1pm and 5pm
Wednesday, January 16th at 7pm
Thursday, January 17th at 7pm
Friday, January 18th at 7pm
Saturday, January 19th at 11am, 3pm, and 7pm
Sunday, January 20th at 1pm and 5pm
Monday, January 21st at 1pm and 5pm

Ticket Prices: $70 Front Row, $48 VIP, $40 VIP, $21, $15
To Buy Tickets: Purchase your tickets here.

Special Discounts:
Use promo code ROCK4 to get 4/$44 on weekday performances (M, W, TR)
Use promo code ROCK25 to get 25% off weekend performances (F, S, Sun)
Use promo code FAMILY and when you buy 4 tickets, you get 4 FREE hot dogs and 4 FREE sodas. (Not valid on Saturday 3:00 pm or Sunday 1:00 pm shows.)
Note: $3 facility fee. Expires on 1/21/13. No double discounts. Not valid on FR or VIP tickets. Limit 6 per order. Not valid on Opening Night.

Win a family 4-pack of tickets!
Leave any comment below for your first entry.
Get an extra entry by tweeting the following “I just entered to win tickets to #disneyonicecle from @kakaty & @DisneyOnIce. Enter here: http://www.kakakakaty.com/2013/01/08/disneyonicecle”  using the tweet button below.
(You can tweet once per day, just leave a separate comment letting me know you tweeted)

Deadline to enter is 6:00 pm on January 10, 2013. Winners will be chosen at using random.org from all the comments on this post. You MUST post a comment for each twitter entry to be counted. Winner 24 hours to claim their prize. Good luck!

I have partnered with Feld Entertainment for several years to promote Disney on Ice shows that come to Cleveland. I received tickets to the show but I was not compensated for this post. 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. 

No Sleep Till…

Matilda was a horrible sleeper until around age 4 and I swore the universe owed me a good sleeper. And we (mostly) had that with Madman. That is until we moved him to a toddler bed last spring. I was determined to keep in his crib until age 3 but he figured out how to climb out shortly after he turned 2 so the crib came down and the toddler bed went in. We haven’t slept since.

He goes to bed just fine, but around 4 AM he decides it’s a great time to get up and play. He doesn’t cry or demand our attention which is a nice change from Matilda’s old, clingy habits. What he does, however, was worse. He quietly destroys his room.

(FYI: you can assume that most of these photos were taken between 2 and 6 AM)

Or he would gather every toy in the room and bring it into bed with him. Do you know how jarring it is to wake up at 3:27 AM to the sound of wooden blocks crashing together?

Sometimes we would actually sleep through the mayhem in the room next to ours and find him like this in the morning:

Or we’d find him asleep on the floor somewhere which I don’t mind. Except for when he falls asleep right behind his door and we can’t open it without hitting him.

It got to the point that even with naps, I would always go into his room with my camera ready because I’d never know where I would find him.

Most of these issues we’ve solved by putting his dresser, toys and books into his closet where he can’t get them. He still gets up daily around 4 AM, but Mark can usually get him to fall back to sleep for a couple of hours. But he’s always been an early riser and we know that we can’t just let him play alone or he’ll cause a major mess (he picks at his diaper through his PJs and will shred it, polymer balls everywhere! such fun!). So when Madman is up, one of us is up – no matter how early. That doesn’t mean I’ve stopped going into his room with my camera ready to go. You just never know when you’ll find a swashbuckling cowboy at 6:45 AM.


Strong Silent Type

I feel like I don’t give the Madman his proper due here on the blog; poor, neglected second-born that he is. As the third child I always swore I wouldn’t let my kids experience different treatment…that they would have equal billing in baby books and beyond. I’ve told you about old boxes of slides with my name spelled wrong, right? Yep…one of my parents (I won’t out the guilty party) spelled my name wrong nearly a year after I was born. Pretty good reason for me to try harder, right?

But, I haven’t. I must say that I didn’t even make a baby book for Matilda until she was 3. But then I did her first three years in beautiful oversized photo albums and never even attempted to start another. Perhaps Madman will get a baby book for his 3rd birthday but the truth is I didn’t document his first year as well as I did Matilda’s and I’ll have to cobble together his 1st year via this blog and my twitter archive.

Bieber hair

But this boy of mine, oh he has my entire heart. He’s tall for his age with a strong, athletic build. I let his blond hair get shaggy because I can’t get enough of it, but once it gets too far into Beiber-territory we get it chopped. He refuses to stand still for even a second so getting a photo is nearly impossible. But beleive me when I tell you I could right volumnes about this kid’s smile, his laugh and don’t even get me started on his dimples.


At 2 years and almost 7 months he’s finally just starting to talk with some clarity, which, to be honest, if he were my first I would have had him in and out of specialist offices by now. But he communicates well without a full grasp of language and gets along just fine so I’m trusting myself (and our pediatrician) that he’ll figure it out sooner or later. It does get him frustrated sometimes but if you don’t understand him he’ll just grab your hand and drag you to what he wants and makes you understand.

His favorite thing in life is his big sister. The two of them are pretty great together, and Madman wants nothing more than to be doing whatever Matilda is doing. His fearless nature coupled with his desire to do exactly what she’s doing has led to some harrowing experiences.

Madman is the one who is teaching us all to slow down to look at the bugs and dig in the dirt. He’s showing us to just go with the flow (especially if that flow includes wearing costumes in public) and to just laugh because laughing is fun. I just love this kid so damn much.

Halloween 2012

So! OhMommy left and apparently she took my will to blog with her to Chicago. Back in July. Oof. It’s been awhile, eh? No real reason… I’ve got 59.7 blog posts formulated in my head but I never found the time to commit them to paper (screen?). I’ve lot’s to catch up on…little stuff like my oldest starting kindergarten, you know, NBD. But, let’s ease back into this with a photo heavy post, shall we? (if you follow me on twitter/instagram you’ve seen them all, sorry!)

Thanks to the frankenstorm that gave us hurricane-style 70mph winds and waves on a Great Lake of 20 feet, our neighborhood’s trick-or-treat was postponed until yesterday. Let’s not even talk about how fast a post-vacation high can be harshed by losing power for 3 days and having roof/chimney damage that leads to plaster/fireplace/mantel damage.

Tip: a waterproof crib topper under your leak buckets will help to protect your floors (something I wish I didn’t have to learn)

Huge shout out to Emily for opening her home to us while she traveled for work. We had warm beds, hot showers and homemade meals in her adorable house rather than suffering at our 45-degree house. Thanks, Em! (and to Emily’s mom!)

The story of how we got these pumpkins to come. This photo is pre-storm when they were freshly cut. Last night they were 75% moldy goo.

Back to the point… 2012: the year Halloween was in November. Matilda knew she wanted to be an equestrian since probably last Christmas. Since she’s been taking riding lessons anyway she had most of the gear. I did finally give in and bought her a (deeply discounted) real riding coat after I looked for a boys jacket at a few thrift stores with no luck. She also scored real leather riding gloves out of the deal which I justified with the fact that she actually uses them at her lessons. She looked pretty darn cute, even with 2 layers of long johns under her costume.

And lord help the person who called her a horse rider… she would correct you with a quick “I’m an equestrian!”

Madman, my sweet opinionated 2.5 year old, was a monkey. Stuffed into the same size 24 month costume his sister wore just a month after she turned 2. I want to make clear that I didn’t not force this costume on him. He had a choice between a bee (which would have fit him much better) and this monkey (which I didn’t realize was so small until after I showed it to him) and he picked the monkey. Luckily, the coat fit him fine, but the pants were about 5 inches too short so the little feet were just below his knees.

Of course, since I can’t help myself when it comes to making these comparisons, I dug up photos from Halloween 2008 to see my two monkeys side-by-side.

Much to Matilda’s delight, Mark decided to dress up at the last minute by donning his Army fatigues. Let’s pause for a moment  and consider that these were issued to him when he was 18 years old and he still fits into them.

And, even though these really have nothing to do with Halloween, I have to post these photos to show how delightfully weird my kids are right now. Matilda is so into horses that EVERYTHING is about horses. Everything. Her scooter is really a horse named Scarlet and yesterday she found a snow brush which she then used to groom her “horse” for about 20 minutes. She even picked over the horseshoes like a proper equestrian would.

As for Madman, he’s at the age that it’s just a heck of a lot easier to give into his demands to wear what he wants than to fight him. This is why he’s frequently seen out and about in costume:

A walk to the neighbor’s house requires his sister’s riding helmet.

The man of steel enjoys pancakes for breakfast.

Buzz prefers to shop Trader Joe’s in the early morning on Saturdays.

I think I may have my blog mojo back… hopefully there will be more updates soon!



Weekend Recap: Family Fun in Put-In-Bay (giveaway)

Back when I posted our summer bucket list I mentioned that I wanted to check out Put-In-Bay since I had never been there. One of the ferry operators to the island saw that post and invited us to visit. South Bass Island suffers from a bit of a party stigma – known as the Key West of the Great Lakes, it has more than it’s fair share of rowdy, drunken stories. So, could a family of 4 have an enjoyable island adventure? We were willing to try.

The Miller Boat Line gave us round-trip tickets for the ferry along with a golf cart on the island (care of Island Bike & Cart Rental) and tickets to some of the attractions at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. Armed with those, coupons from the web, and a couple of hours worth of internet searching we were off.

Miller Ferry bound, We’re on a boat!

After picking up the cart, which was equipped with a child seat for the squirmy Madman, we motored to town. After a quick loop around we parked and let the kids play in DeRivera Park which is a beautiful green space between the main street and the marina. The park has lots of playground equipment, tons of picnic tables and ample shade. There were even kids doing chalk drawings up and down the sidewalks. I was kicking myself for not bringing a picnic lunch because the park was a perfect spot. We decided instead to check out nearby Boardwalk and ended up in the Upper Deck because we wanted table service. The food was what you’d expect for a tourist place…I can’t complain about my perch sandwich, but it was standard sandwich and fries fare. The Lobster Bisque was indeed very good and Matilda ate most of our bowl. We were disappointed we couldn’t sit outside (highchairs don’t work with the patio tables) but they put us by the windows so the kids could watch the boats come and go, which kept them entertained throughout lunch. Pro tip: check your coupons before you eat. We forgot to use a coupon for a free kids meal here.

DeRivera Park fun

After lunch we headed over to The Aquatic Visitors Center where I might have freaked out a bit about the size of some of Lake Erie’s fish. The kids loved it there – it’s full of fish tanks and some hands-on displays about the fishery and ecosystem of the lake. They also offer free fishing off their pier (equipment provided) and Matilda was determined to catch a fish. After a few attempts she caught a round gobie, much to her excitement. The Center is staffed by Ohio State University Stone Lab students who were patient and very kind to the kids. The best part was when Matilda’s gobie was put into the trough to feed the bigger catfish and pike. She was pretty excited.

Pretty view from the Aquatic Visitor’s Center, Hands-on displays

Fishing off the pier and feeding her gobie to the bigger fish

It was time to head to the main attraction – Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center – which seems to be the hub of kid activity on the island. With our Combo passes we checked out the Butterfly Garden (tip: the nicest bathrooms of the trip were found here), Perry’s Cave and Fort aMAZE’n. As you can guess, Matilda loved it here. She thought the cave was really cool (so did I) and really enjoyed the maze. Madman was a bit of handful but he enjoyed the little antique car display and then just had fun hanging out on our parked golf cart while Matilda and Mark were navigating the maze. Best part – kids 5 and under free for most things here and the combo tickets save you 25% over individual ticket prices.

Fun at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Since Matilda was dying to get in the water we drove over to South Bass Island State Park to check out their swimming beach. While it was nice enough we were totally unprepared since neither Mark or I brought our suits. Both kids got in the lake but the rocky bottom and waves got the best of us and we made them get out after just a few minutes. They were not happy but my shorts were soaked and I didn’t want to get wetter. If we had been better prepared, this would have been a nice way to spend an hour our two as it wasn’t crowded, the water was warm and the views of the bluffs were pretty.

After our traumatic exit from the beach we decided to drive past the memorial (which was closed for repairs but opens up again this week) and check out the east side of the island. We got to Scheef Nature Preserve but decided to not get out and walk around since the kids were starting to get tired. We buzzed back past the memorial and went back into town for a snack. After walking around a bit we ended up at the little ice cream parlor at The Candy Bar for an air conditioned break. We thought about riding Kimberly’s Carousel but the kids were’t having it. Around 5:00 the village started to get a bit too rowdy for us (admittedly, we are kind of prude when it comes to our kids who are only 5 and 2) with foul language and scant clothing. Although we had intended to check out the Goat Soup and Whiskey for dinner, which is mid-island and away from the main strip, the kids were D-O-N-E so after another quick romp on the DeRivera Park playground we headed back to the ferry dock.

Overall we enjoyed our trip. There was more to do in PIB than we had expected and I think we will return when the kids are a bit older so we can do things like kayaking and more hiking. Cost-wise, I think a day-trip is on par with a a day a Cedar Point, just make sure you look for coupons (and then remember to use them!). Put-In-Bay’s reputation for being a party place isn’t totally unfounded, but if you get there early enough and leave around dinner time a fun day is in store – there’s lots of history on the island and plenty to do. Plus if your little one is 5 or under almost everything is free. A golf cart is a must with younger kids but I think older kids could handle traversing the island on a bike. Either way, it’s a perfect day trip that’s just a bit out of the ordinary.

Much thanks to @MillerBoatLineand especially their Communications Manager, Katrina, who put up with a lot of indecisiveness as to when we were going to visit. Thanks for showing us another local spot for us to enjoy with the kids!

Here’s the fun part – When we arrived on PIB, the owner’s of Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center gave me 4 Combo tickets to give away to my readers. Just leave a comment below telling me your best PIB story or about your favorite Lake Erie getaway. Giveaway ends June 12, 2012 at midnight. One commenter will be chosen by random.org. Good luck!

Disclosure: I was given 2 ferry tickets, a one-day golf cart rental and 2 Combo tickets to Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center for our trip – a trip we were planning on taking on our own. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share things that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. 

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!”