Hotel Breakers at Cedar Point

Disclosure: As a #BloggingatCP blogger for Cedar Point my family stayed one night at the renovated Hotel Breakers and entered the park for free.  Food, travel and all other purchases were on my dime. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

I have lived in Ohio my whole life and an annual (or more!) trip to Cedar Point is a must. While I’ve been going there for decades I’ve always lived close enough to not necessitate an overnight stay. I recently learned that there is no reason to “need” to stay overnight when the accommodations are enough of an attraction to stand on their own.

When Cedar Point offered me a stay in the newly renovated Hotel Breakers I very literally gasped at the offer. Hotel Breakers has always been the fanciest place to stay near Cedar Point. The U.S. National Historic Landmark beachfront hotel has been there for 110 years and has always been “THE place” to stay when going to Cedar Point. In it’s heyday it hosted celebrities like John D. Rockefeller,  Hellen Keller and many US Presidents. I said yes immediately and started counting down the days to our trip.

The reason I was invited was to see the new renovations – 2 years in the making and the largest cost project ever at Cedar Point. The results are stunning.


With an indoor pool, outdoor pool, zero-depth entry splash pool with watersides and the beach there is something for everyone. Plus each pool is watched by some of the most alert and attentive lifeguards I’ve ever encountered.


The indoor pool was a good size, guarded and had plenty of chairs. Bonus – it overlooks the lake! IMG_6192

They each got 2 trips down the slide before the thunder started rumbling, sending us inside. This pool has 2 very alert guards and is enclosed by a fence. The opposite end is zero entry and has all kids of splash/spray stuff. 


Lots of room on the beach to enjoy the sun and sand.

Of course, there are two more lifeguards keeping watch over the Lake Erie swimming area.

If dry activities are more your thing there is an arcade, fire-pits overlooking the lake, a bar with views of the beach, lots of lounge chairs and rocking chairs . Plus tons of eating options including an ice cream shop serving delicious, local Toft’s ice cream, and a full-service Starbucks.


With the storms keeping us inside, we had lots of time to explore the hotel. We found this great ice cream parlor tucked away near the doors to the outdoor pool area.



When your kids are up before 7:00 AM no matter what, you are some of the first guests at the on-site Perkins restaurant

View from Starbucks on Sunday morning.
Lake Erie was angry that day and the rain was pouring down.

Guests staying at all Cedar Point resorts get early entry into Cedar Point, discounted tickets, free shuttle service, and free parking. From Hotel Breakers you can enter the park at the beach entrance – a 2 minute walk with no lines, no crowds. Due to the thunderstorms the weekend we stayed we didn’t get to take advantage of these options but it would make for a very easy trip. Plus the early entry would mean getting to ride a number of rides before there are any crowds! That is worth a lot.

The rooms are playful with punches of red in the decor and the best headboards around. The desk chairs are so cute I was looking at the bottom to see who made them because I want to buy them for our kitchen table.



A seagull nest was right outside our window and the kids checked on the bird constantly. 

But what really stood out throughout the whole hotel was the family-friendly attention to detail:


The area near the front desk has tons of seating and the kids immediately started making faces in the fun-house mirrors on the wall. It made checking in so easy to have them entertained nearby. 


The rooms have a dorm-sized fridge with a real freezer – an unexpected bonus – plus a microwave and shelves to stash snacks. I loved this set-up.


This seems so silly but this drying rack in the bathroom MADE MY DAY. We are always draping wet suits and bath towels all over the bathroom when we’re at hotel and they get in the way. I have been know to travel with those Command removable hooks just to have a place to hang wet swim gear. Having a bathroom with plenty of hooks is a DREAM.


We got to say goodnight to Snoopy, who was dressed for bed himself.


The room had plenty of space for the 4 of us and our stuff. It was very comfortable. 


I think she was excited to ride. Too bad the storms meant we couldn’t go the following morning.

Mark and I also really enjoyed the attention to detail they took when renovating and decorating. As owners of our second 100-year old home we could appreciate the craftsmanship and care they took in the work of updating the historic Hotel Breakers. From the beautiful stained glass in the entry to the often-photographed rotunda. Everything was well done and well cared for. We also enjoyed the artwork – nostalgic photos of the park’s 145-year history.



We went back to the park to ride 2 weeks after our stay and I found myself wishing we had booked a room for the night on this very hot day. Even so, we had a great time as always:


After 2 Cedar Point trips with him refusing to ride anything but the CP & LE Railroad it was fun to watch him ride a few things this year.


 I can’t leave the park without taking this pictureIMG_6345

Checking out the view of Hotel Breakers from the top of the Giant WheelIMG_6336

She has refused to even think about riding the Gemini ever since her first time in 2013 that included the train stopping while going up the first hill. After a little bribery (I promised to ride the Pipe Scream with her) she conquered her fear and declared the Gemini “the best ride ever”. 

Madman and I spent some time in the (air conditioned) Town Hall Museum in Frontier Town while Matilda and Mark rode the Mine Ride. It was there that we found this great Gemini photo set up.



It was Matilda’s idea to recreate this shot to copy the artwork from the Hotel Breakers bathroom.


THIS is how you end a 95 degree day at Cedar Point.
Which leads me to my #1 Cedar Point tip: ALWAYS bring a complete change of clothes, including shoes, for every person!

HalloWeekends 2014 at Cedar Point

Disclosure:  I was invited to attend the #BloggingatCP HalloWeekends event.  Tickets were provided but food, travel and all other purchases were on my own.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I was not asked to post about my trip, but I am because it was fun. 


Last year I had a newly-minted 7 year old who was finally tall enough to ride some roller coasters, but totally freaked out about all things Halloween. This year I have an almost 8 year old who wanted to take her BFF to Cedar Point for the first time. Oh how a year changes things. Matilda wasn’t scared of anything this year, and even posed for photos! I was shocked!


Matilda’s birthday is next week so when I got invited to check out 2014 HalloWeekends at Cedar Point I knew it would be a fun pre-birthday celebration. We planned to go as a family like we did in the spring, but things changed and I ended up taking Matilda and her best friend, Audrey. Since it was Audrey’s first time to “the Point” the whole drive there was chatter about what they wanted to ride (Iron Dragon! Pipe Scream!) and what they didn’t want to ride (Witches Wheel).


Like last year, it was a perfect weekend to go. Cool temps, lots of sun and light crowds. Our longest wait for a ride was under 10 minutes. It was perfect.

Once we were in the park the girls warmed up with some of the midway rides – Dodgem cars, Cedar Downs and the Antique Cars. Then it was time for the big one – the Iron Dragon. I rode it with them twice then I bowed out as they rode it 3 more times in a row. They’d run down the exit, run through the line gates and sprint up the stairs. They tried riding in the very front, the very back and the middle to see what they liked the best (Matilda = front, Audrey = back).


I finally got them to move to a different ride so we headed back to the new Pipe Scream. We didn’t ride it in the spring due to long lines but this time there was hardly a wait. It was really fun and different, but I was so woozy by the time I got off. The girls, of course, rode it a couple more times in succession. How they do that and not lose their breakfast is beyond me.


After swinging through the back of the park and hitting more rides (the Wave Swinger was a huge hit, with multiple consecutive rides) we worked our way back up to the new Chickie’s & Pete’s for lunch. I have to be honest here: the food and service were pretty poor. There was nothing horrible about it, but our waiter took forever then never came back to check on us, and for the price the food was “meh”. Next time I’ll skip the table-service and stick to midway fare.

After lunch we hung around in Kiddie Kingdom for a bit to take it easy. This was the magic of this trip… Matilda and Audrey are both about 50 inches tall. Tall enough for many of the bigger rides but still short enough for the kiddie rides. The did look kind of funny riding next to toddlers, but they giggled the whole time. We also stumbled onto Howl-O-Palooza and the girls trick-or-treated through the rides and played in the foam pit (like a rave for kids – hysterical!).


The day was winding down so we did one last loop through the park and the girls decided they wanted to tackle the Corkscrew – the first coaster in history to invert riders three times. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t ride it until I was 10 or 11! I rode with them the first time – they were behind me in a car – and I fully expected them to be freaked out at the end. NOPE – they burst out of their seat and asked “can we do it again?!”. They rode it 3 more times on their own. I was pretty proud! (maybe next year Matilda will tackle the Magnum or Millennium Force?)


Before heading back out to the car I stopped for my favorite Cedar Point food – cheese on a stick – and the girls played a few games and were each victorious.

Roller Coaster count:
Iron Dragon: at least 6 times
Corkscrew: 3 times
Mine Ride: 2 times
Pipe Scream: 3 times
Blue Streak: once (they weren’t fans).
Woodstock Express: 2 times – mainly for the in-ride photos

It was a pretty awesome day.


You’ve got 6 weekends left to check out Cedar Point and HalloWeekends before they close for the year. It’s my favorite time of year to go.

Castaway Bay Review and Giveaway

Disclosure: Castaway Bay provided one night of accommodations with water park passes, as well as four day passes to give away to one reader. 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. 

Update: Congratulations to commenter #6 – Andrea! Please check your email!

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Confession time: While I’ve been to Cedar Point probably one hundred times in my life I’d never been to any of their water parks. In fact, I’ve never been to any indoor water park. So when I was invited to be part of an overnight at Castaway Bay as part of #CPMoms I jumped at the chance.

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Timing was perfect – right in the middle of (another) polar vortex and we were all itching for something different, something warm, something fun. The 82 degree air of the indoor water park was calling our name. We didn’t tell the kids where we were going so they were super excited when we pulled into the parking lot and they saw the three tube slides that snake their way out of the building. We wasted no time checking in and getting ourselves ready to hit the slides. We were given a “Starfish” room with 2 queen beds, a closet, a mini fridge, a microwave, a small table with 2 chairs, a bathroom with a bathtub/shower, and a screened balcony with view of the frozen bay. The room was nice and was clean (and the fridge was great to have), but it’s nothing special. It’s a standard, if a little dated, hotel room. Castaway Bay also has suites with bunk beds and 2-room suites for bigger families.

But, you’re not at Castaway Bay for the hotel rooms, are you? You’re there for the WATER PARK! Which is why as soon as our bags were in the room and we grabbed some pizza we suited up and headed to the slides. And here is where I totally fail as blogger… because I didn’t take my camera with me into the water park and therefore I have no pictures. You guys, I’m so sorry. But the thought of chasing kids around the water with a camera just sounded like a disaster.

However, here is what I can report… the park is perfect for young families. Matilda, at age 7, was able to roam the park freely. Castaway Bay had plenty to keep her entertained without being enormous. She beelined for the wave pool and rode the waves for awhile before exploring the Lookout Lagoon Family Funhouse. She spent a ton of time running up and down the stairs, going down the smaller slides and cheering as the giant bucket dumped 1,000 gallons of water over the whole structure. She finally found her way up to the top of Rendezvous Run water roller coaster that shoots you uphill using water jets. After her first run she was hooked! And I have to agree. Mark and I both rode this ride several times and it was really fun.

While Matilda was feeling all “big kid” and having free rein, Madman found his bliss in the Toddler Tide Pool. With a few shorter slides, water pipes and lots of room to splash he was a happy dude. And with the set up, it meant he was able to do what he wanted (go down the tandem slides over and over and over) while either Mark or I hung out near the pool edge keeping an eye on him. I honestly was worried about the logistics of wrangling 2 kids at a water park, but the set up of Castaway Bay gave us parents peace of mind. Neither kid could really get out of our sight at anytime so we were able to breathe easy. And it also meant that Mark and I could take turns checking out the bigger slides like the Paradise Plunge and Tropical Tube Slides.

This seems like a good time for me to give a shout out to the Castaway Bay Lifeguards. They are trained as are part of Ellis & Associates National Pool & Waterpark Lifeguard Training Program. As a former guard myself, I know that Ellis guards are some of the best trained in the industry as they have very rigorous standards. Castaway Bay has received numerous awards of excellence from Ellis and the guards were attentive and friendly. I was completely at ease with Matilda and Madman going on all the slides and in each pool even if Mark or I weren’t right at their sides.

Fun at CB doesn’t stop when you leave the water park. We took a swim break to check out the arcade and later we did some crafts including decorate-your-own beach towels. We also got info on Club Castaway but didn’t partake (the kids wanted MORE SWIMMING!). But in Club Castaway kids can sing karaoke, attend a dance party with the Peanuts gang and even watch a Peanuts movie or have a bedtime story with Snoopy. There is a Club Castaway schedule at the front desk and most activities are free. Mark, the coffee addict, wants you to know that there’s a Starbucks on-site, as well.

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Now that we’re no longer water park newbies we’ll definitely be going back to Castaway Bay to break up the winter doldrums. It was a perfect quick getaway (only 90 minutes from the eastern Cleveland ‘burbs!) and it was a much, much needed family break from being trapped inside our house. Even if we don’t go for the full overnight again this winter, it’s nice to know that it’s totally worth the drive for a tropical day trip.

And now the giveaway… Castaway Bay gave me 4 day-passes for one reader ($100 value!). Just leave a comment before midnight (eastern) on 2/12 telling me why you want to win.

Playing Tourist

My dear friend Pauline has always said you should play tourist in your hometown. And she’s right. Six years of living in Cleveland and we’re still discovering new things. We love to spend weekends exploring new parks, markets, restaurants and places. But a few weeks ago, we were able to have a fun overnight tourist adventure in Uptown thanks to the InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens. See, they had a little contest on FB and Twitter and I won! So the weekend after Christmas we secretly packed a bag, put the kids in the car and told them we were going on adventure.




Our first stop on this unseasonably warm Saturday was CBG for the Glow – their awesome annual holiday show. We took advantage of the daylight and explored the outdoor gardens. The kids ran off some energy on the paths before heading in to check out the array of gingerbread houses, indoor camping, dozens of Christmas trees and more. We’re frequent visitors of CBG and we love the Glow exhibit!




After the sun started to set we got back in the car and said “I don’t feel like going home. Do you? It would be fun to not go home tonight!” The kids were a bit surprised. Well, Matilda was flabbergasted: “What!? We HAVE to go home! We can’t sleep in the car!”. After a discussion about how cold the car would be overnight we ended up at ABC Tavern for some dinner. Since it was only 5:00 we were basically the only ones in there. The kids loved all the open space, the juke box, and the bowling game.

IMG_0540Cheers to adventure in our own town!

After dinner we walked over to one of the newest Mitchell’s for our favorite dessert. Then strolled over to Constantino‘s for a few provisions.

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By this point Matilda was nearly beside herself. We had been out for almost 4 hours and Mark and I kept talking about stating uptown all night but she was adamant about going home. She wanted a bed to sleep in! She couldn’t sleep in the car! So when we pulled up outside of the InterContinental Suites Hotel and Mark said “why don’t we just stay here tonight?” she was aghast: “I don’t have any books to read! I need my pajamas!” I smiled and as I pulled the packed bag out of the trunk and her eyes grew wide. “Are we really staying here?” she asked over and over.

Their Director of Sales & Marketing, who set up our stay, put us in an suite with an adjoining room for the kids since they were not at full capacity that night. I knew InterContinental’s were nice (I’ve stayed in other properties) but this was almost too much! Mark and I were SHOCKED at our set-up. A full suite with living room, bed room and kitchenette PLUS an adjoining standard room (it was huge) with a king bed and other kitchenette. The best part is that we took up a full corner of the hall and had no neighbors we had to worry about disturbing.

The kids took no time to get settled in. They were on the bed, watching cartoons (we don’t have cable at home, so the TV as a luxury to them) and drawing on the notepads within minutes.


Soon they had discovered the bathrobes. Once they were wrapped up Madman kept saying “I’m a king!” And Matilda just sighed, leaned back on the couch and said “this is the life” as she put her slippered feet up.


They were thrilled to cozy up in bed and watch a movie. Something they only get to do on vacation!


We all slept well, given that we were spread out across a huge area. The next morning after a delicious breakfast at C2 (also part of the prize package), we did some more serious lounging in the room before checkout. Matilda even took a bath, if only to wrap up in the robe and try out the phone in the bathroom.

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Nearly a month later and the kids are still talking about our surprise overnight adventure. I’m so grateful to InterContinental Suites and Cleveland Botanical Gardens for providing such a memorable weekend. I can’t wait to do it again!

Have you ever done an overnight adventure in your town? Or just a surprise trip? We may do another one sooner than the kids think… (like tomorrow night! Shhh! It’s a secret!)

Cedar Point – HalloWeekends and a 48″ kid

Disclosure: I was given media passes to check out HalloWeekends at Cedar Point. I paid for travel, food and souvenirs. I was not asked to post about my trip, but I am so you can read about an easily-frightened/sensitive child’s visit to HalloWeekends. 

As part of her 7th birthday presents I told Matilda we’d be going to Cedar Point for HalloWeekends. In all my life, filled with many dozen Cedar Point trips, I have never gone during HalloWeekends, so I was as excited as she was. But, my sweet girl is also the one so frightened of anyone in costume that she hid in the bathroom when Slider visited the social suite. After much discussion with others we decided that a day at CP would be great, even with a little spookiness.

My sister and her family joined us because I thought that having her older cousins around would help Matilda be a bit more brave in the face of a plastic skeleton. In typical fashion for my family, we arrived about 30 minutes before the gates opened. The kids took the time to map out our day.



Last year Matilda was only tall enough to ride the Iron Dragon; now that she’s 48″ she had big plans to hit all 8 roller coasters that allow 48″+. We thought a “warm up” ride on the familiar Iron Dragon would be a good start to the day. As we headed to the ride she was nervous – not about the ride but about seeing scary things in the park. 95% of the decor is tame (fake grave yards, plastic skeletons, bats in the trees, etc.) but we had passed two really creepy HalloWeekend billboards on our drive to the park and she was on high alert. What’s up with the terrifying clown fad? It needs to go away – it freaks ME out and she was super-anxious about seeing one inside the park.

She kept her head down and a with tight grip on my hand we got to the Iron Dragon without incident. She was excited to show off her favorite ride to her cousins.


Then we worked our way back through the Frontier Trail towards the Mine Ride. (Fun fact – my sister worked at the Red Garter Saloon on the Frontier Trail 22 years ago and the menu is still the same.) The trail was littered with pretty cool steampunk-type decor – nothing creepy as the mazes and haunted areas weren’t open yet. We of course stopped to get a photo in the stockade – my brother, sister and I have several of these from when we were growing up.


We hopped right onto the Mine Ride and Matilda declared it her new favorite. She rode it a few more times throughout the day.



After that we decided the kids were ready for the Gemini. Again, we hopped right on the ride with little waiting. My sister’s family in the blue train and Matilda and I in the red – we were off to the race! (Fun Fact – the Gemini was my first roller coaster back when I was Matilda’s age. I rode with my sister and about halfway up the first hill I decided I didn’t want to ride so I tried to climb out of the train!) This time Matilda was ready to beat her cousins in the roller coaster race but our train stopped midway up the hill – the blue train kept going. I was in a mild panic about a broken coaster and trying to keep Matilda calm when a park employee walked up the hill to confiscate a phone from the guy in the front seat. He was trying to photograph the ride so they stopped the train to take his phone away! They remind you before each and every ride “For safety reasons, taking pictures, videotaping and filming on rides is strictly prohibited” and they are NOT messing around with that rule.

Anyway – off we finally went on Matilda’s biggest coaster yet! Her face after the first hill was pure white and wide-eyed. She clung to the harness but managed to smile a bit by the end. She said is was scary fun but didn’t want to go on it again. She was more upset about losing the race to her cousins than anything else! She also waited in the short line for the Magnum XL-200 but in the end the sight of that 200-foot first hill had her opt out of riding.

We spent a lot of time on some of the “thrill rides” and this is where having her cousins with us was a plus – I didn’t have to ride any of the “spinny” rides with her (they make me motion sick). So she got to ride to her heart’s content and I stayed nausea-free. We checked out the kid-friendly Howl-O-Palooza area where Matilda literally jumped into my arms as we toured the Magical House on Boo Hill. There was nothing scary in it – it was simply spooky! However Matilda is the kid who will bravely jump off a diving board and ride roller coasters yet freak out at the sight of a  mechanical fake spider dropping down from the ceiling. But while we were in the area we also caught a ride on the Blue Streak, which was just re-opening after a brief rain. I had forgotten how much air time that ride gives you. It’s old but fun!



These decorations were tame enough for her to enjoy

We had a terrific day and by the end Matilda seemed unfazed by the decorations and knew to simply look away or cover her eyes if she saw something scary. And that was one of the reasons we went…so she could face her fears and learn to deal with them.  A year ago she would have hid under my shirt and refused to do anything, so we’ve come a long way. In the end she rode 4 roller coasters – she really wanted to ride the Corkscrew but it was closed when we were nearby. The Magnum, Millennium Force and Mean Streak will have to wait for next year when maybe those big first hills won’t seem so daunting.

Would I go to HalloWeekends again? Well, Matilda said that while she DOES want to go back to Cedar Point next year, she doesn’t want to go during HalloWeekends. But this was right after telling me that the day wasn’t that spooky! So yes, I would go back simply because it was a great day – no lines, good weather (a few short-lived sprinkles didn’t slow us down), no crowds. There’s no doubt that fall a great time to visit Cedar Point!

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 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. 

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!”



Weekend Recap (Late Edition)

Yes, I know it’s Friday. Am I the only one who has to play catch-up all week after a 3-day weekend? I’m not complaining at all. But damn, this week has gone by quickly. This past weekend was one of this tales of parenthood that makes you wonder how we survive it all. I like to call this one Traveling with a Sick Toddler in a Single-Bed Hotel Room. Or How Not to Do It.

I have to preface this recap of the weekend with the tale of the sick toddler. Last Wednesday I got the dreaded “daycare call” and was told that Madman had a low fever and had crawled onto his cot 45 minutes early then promptly passed out. He hadn’t eaten and had acted dazed all morning. I picked him up after nap and he was just a cuddly, tired lump all afternoon. On Thursday Mark and I tag-teamed staying at home with him and by that evening he had still not eaten and broken out in a rash. A trip to Urgent Care later and we had a raging double ear infection (yikes! that wasn’t even on our radar) and either strep or Hand, Foot & Mouth. The CNP who checked him didn’t bother to get a throat culture since she was going to prescribe antibiotics for his ears anyway so if it was strep we were covered. If it was Hand, Foot & Mouth that’s just a waiting game. As Friday progressed we were pretty sure it was Hand, Foot & Mouth and the poor boy was miserable and looked diseased.

So! Saturday was my cousin’s wedding in Columbus – an event my entire dad’s side of the family would be at, including my brother and nephew from Florida. So we headed down to the hotel with Sir Coxsackie and his sister, leaving at nap time in the hopes that someone would get at least 2 hours of sleep in the car. He fell sleep right on cue (with snacks in hnad, watching Clifford). All was going according to plan. That is until he woke up 20 minutes later. And never fell back asleep. Oh boy…


Too bad he didn’t stay like this

We arrived at our hotel which was full to the brim of sports teams – apparently there were both soccer and baseball tournaments in the area over the weekend. Yippee. We got the early check-in we asked for but we had single king room, not the double queen we wanted. Turns out ALL the double queen rooms had been booked by the sports teams. Fantastic. We get to the room and throw the girl in her swimsuit and I took her to the pool – we had been promising it the whole day. Mark stayed in the room with Madman, hoping that maybe he’d doze off. After a swim and visiting with some of the family we headed up to get wedding-ready only to find out that Madman had refused to sleep. Yikes.

We arrive at the church literally 2 minutes before the 4:00 PM wedding started … oops! … and I ended up hanging out in the vestibule with Madman who just wanted to run around. He was getting more and more clingy and whiny by the moment but he did have a chance to play with my cousin’s kid for a bit (I was told he wasn’t contagious anymore and I hope that was right). After the pretty and short ceremony we did family photos and more chatting before we headed to the reception. We drove the long way, once again going that Madman would close his eyes for just a few minutes with no luck. At the reception Madman wanted nothing to do with anyone but me. He wanted to be held at all times and was super cranky. In the meantime Matilda was super-excited to see all of her cousins. She was bouncing around like a pinball from one to another and back. She couldn’t wait to dance and see the bride again. Madman held out as long as he could but by 7 Mark took a very tired and cranky boy back to the hotel.

Matilda & her cousin B, my brother with Matilda,
Matilda’s reaction when the bride and groom entered the reception

Matilda and I stayed and she was thrilled that we were seated right where the wedding party came in. She was so attentive to every detail and tradition and LOVED to clink the glasses to get the bride and groom to kiss. Finally, around 8:30 the dancing started. Matilda shook her groove thing for about 3 songs until she declared herself DONE and wanted to go back to the hotel. Apparently the crash after her 1st Shirley Temple was a hard one.

My parents, married 45 years this fall, were one of the last 2 couples dancing during the anniversary dance,
Matilda and the drink of red dye and sugary doom,

Stephen (my cousin) and Sara – the happy couple

Now, remember we are all in a single-king room with a pack n’ play for Madman. Matilda and wade through the packs of 8-9 year old boys roaming the hotel halls with no parental supervision (OMG) and tip-toe into the room at about 10 PM to find the boys wide awake. Madman had not had a single moment of sleep since about 11 AM. Matilda crawled into bed and quickly fell asleep but Madman was running laps in his crib. At one point I saw him try and nearly succeed at climbing out. He FINALLY crashed around 11. Then for the rest of the night I had a 5 year old who thought she was a barnacle attached to my back. That is until she woke up at 2:30 crying about her ear hurting. I corralled her in the bathroom where she cried and screamed refused to take any medicine for a good 20 minutes. I finally got her to take some motrin and she quickly fell back asleep. Of course, even after all of this Madman was up at 7 AM so Matilda got another round of swimming in as Madman and I toured the halls of the hotel.

Sunday morning we spent at my aunt’s house in Columbus for breakfast and more family time before we hit the road back to Cleveland. This time Madman was asleep within minutes and actually slept most of the time, thank goodness. When we got home we did fun things like make a meal plan for the week and go grocery shopping. We did, however, check out Old Carolina BBQ for dinner and it was delicious.

Monday was spent installing our air conditioners to ward off the 95 degree heat, sprinklers and then Mark and Matilda went to a cook out with friends why Madman and I stayed home and watched way too much TV. Then, since Matilda got the sprinkler I pulled out all the sandbox buckets and a big plastic tub onto the drive way and let Madman go to town in the water. Of course, the night ended with 3 window AC units blasting in the bedrooms which meant we were in for a game of “electricity roulette”. If you don’t know the rules you’ve probably never lived in an old house. The game is where you ask yourself “If I turn this on, will it blow a fuse?” Turns out when the item in question is a tiny nightlight the answer is yes. Ahhh – I love old houses. Good thing we keep a stash of a few dozen fuses around. Once that was fixed we all fell into bed for the night.

Hope your holiday weekend was good to you and that your week has gone as fast as mine. TGIF – time to do it all again!


What We’ve Been Doing (Instead of Blogging)



First tube slide

First Chucks

Chalk art



Cloud gazing

NYC in August (Loved!)

But I was so happy to see my city again

I swear he grew 3″ while I was gone

A week at “grandma & grandpa camp” and suddenly she’s this big kid

Watching The Avengers blow up CLE

Pretending she’s a teenager

16 months = endless entertainment

What have you been up to this summer?

Race Day

…continued from here
Dark and early Sunday morning Mark’s alarm went off at 4:30 so he could eat breakfast well ahead of the 6:30 race start. I crawled out from under the covers at 5:15, scooped up the Madman and dropped him off in my parent’s room, and we headed for the car.

Ready to run

A quick drop off near the starting line and I went back to the hotel where they were just setting up the breakfast. I grabbed a bagel, banana and coffee and went up to the room to watch the weather. While it wasn’t raining when I dropped Mark off the radar didn’t look good. By the time my mom brought the kids back down to my room at 6:15 there was a steady downpour outside. Yuck.

At 7:15 we gathered in the lobby with signs, noisemakers and umbrellas and all headed outside. The hotel was right on the marathon course at about mile 6 ½. There was a good size crowd already gathered and we found a spot right along the midline of the road. The leaders had already passed that point but soon we saw some of the 30,408(!) runners trudge up the hill and around the curve.

The best cheering section ever

My mom spotted him first and we all cheered and yelled as he ran by. The rain had tapered off to drizzle at this point and he seemed pretty chipper. (I had 8 different signs for cheering, the one my dad is holding above got the most smiles/laughs from runners).

Blurry but happy!

We went back to the hotel and I left the kid with my parents, threw the rest of the signs in the car and headed over to Hyde Park Square to meet up with the course at mile 11. Except I never made it there. From the hotel the only way (as far as I could tell) to get there was to cross the marathon course which, obviously, wasn’t happening. I circled around for a bit in the adjoining neighborhoods and finally parked and found the route. I got set with my camera and signs, asked a volunteer where we were – mile 10ish – and pulled out my phone to see where Mark was. According to his Facebook updates via Runmeter he was already at mile 12. Shit.

I hustled back to the car and mapped my way to the “Party Zone” at mile 21.5. I wasn’t too worried about missing Mark at 10 because my cousin and aunt were planning to cheer at miles 14 and 17 (which, for spectators, were only a few blocks apart). I got to my spot around 8:50 and checked Facebook again – he was already at mile 18 – he was flying!

A few minutes later I got a call from my cousin, Carrie. They got a little lost but, were now at mile 16 – had he gone past yet? My heart fell; according to Runmeter he was already well past that spot. And Mark hadn’t seen a familiar face for over 12 miles. I felt awful!

But if he was at 18 already I would see him shortly at 21.5. I cheered as I waited; lots of people were looking ragged. Just beat down and ready to stop. I fact one guy cramped up as he went by and I helped prop him up as another spectator massaged his calves. After 20 minutes I got worried that maybe he was injured and had to stop…he should have gone by me by now.

Then my phone rang – Carrie and my Aunt Gretchen were driving along the route to get to the finish and they saw Mark! They were able to pull over and cheer for him – what a relief! He had just passed mile 19 when they saw him….apparently the Runmeter App had gone wonky and the mileage was off.

Then around the corner he came. He looked pretty beat down, but he was still running. I yelled and rattled the cow bell and tried to take a few photos. I wanted to do everything at once; I was so excited to see him. I fact I started crying a little bit and he told me later that he did, too.

Five miles to go

I jumped back in my car and hightailed it downtown for the finish. The crowd was huge and I had to drive around several blocks before I find a parking garage with open spots. I ran down to the finish area and shimmied my way up to the barricade. I was on the wrong side- the half-marathon lane was directly in front of me – but I didn’t want to risk missing him cross the finish as I tried to get a better spot.

My cousin called and said they were on the other side, right next to the finish line. Now all we had to do was watch for him to come down the final quarter-mile. After not very long I spotted him. I screamed and yelled and waved around my sign and as he passed by he spotted me.

I cried.

Mark crossed the finish at 4:21. I am just so damn proud of him.

By the time we got back to the hotel we had 15 minutes to clear out*. So we threw everything together and headed north to my cousin’s apartment. She graciously offered her place for Mark to shower and relax.
I had set up a lunch for everyone at nearby InCahoots*. Mark was able to sit and rest for a bit and M was excited to give him the gifts we had purchased to commemorate his accomplishment.
Official Flying Pig Finisher hat and jacket
After a little more time visiting and resting at Carrie’s apartment we all hit the road for home.
My Aunt in the center (my cousin took the photo)
Notice the awesome shirts my sister got for the kids
Despite the rain and long drives it was a terrific weekend. One that I hope I never forget. Mark just started running last June. He turned 39 2 weeks ago. He trained through a Cleveland winter – rain, sleet, snow, wind, slush, and ice (even a few rogue skunk encounters) – nothing stopped him. More than once he returned from a 10+ mile run with his coat and hair covered in frost. He even bought running cleats for traction in the snow and ice. He did almost all of his runs after the kids went to bed, hitting the pavement after 8 PM, so he wouldn’t miss any time with them.

Mark is truly an inspiration to me. I love you, Mark!

*You’d think that when an entire hotel is full of runners that maybe they’d have a pretty flexible check-out time, considering the timing of the race. But no, the Spring Hill Midtown was pretty rude and we had to be out by noon, even though they told me (a Marriott Rewards member) a week prior that a late check-out “should be no problem”.

**They were fantastic about accommodating us. And the food was really good, too. I would totally recommend them if you are in the area. (I got nothing for saying this, they were just great to us).