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Local Travel

National Parks Itinerary

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I’ve always been what some may call, a girly tomboy. Oxymoron you say? I know. But when you find a better way to describe a gal who loves spending a day in the mall ALMOST as much as a day in the mountains, you let me know.

I’m notorious for elaborate dreams (most of which I try to bring to fruition but, ya win some ya lose some – see our last post where I confessed my paleontologist dreams.) The my most recent glimmer in my eye is America’s National Parks – and I’m determined to explore them all. I’ve tackled a few, but recently I checked off a couple more!

We’re big itinerary people, especially our mom who devised a VERY detailed itinerary –sorry, but there will be no rest for the weary for those who wish to replicate this trip!

Day 1: Downtown Moab and “glamping” at Under Canvas Moab 

** if anything is synonymous to a “girly tomboy” it may be glamorous camping.

Day 2: Canyonlands National Park and a drive to Old Town Albuquerque

Canyonlands, National Park, number one, was on our drive out of Moab and is not one that should be skipped! The sites are breathtaking and there’s plenty of short hikes for those just passing through (like us!) .

Where we stayed: A couple hours drive through the barren desert later and we arrived at the Hotel Parq Central in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The hotel was once a hospital…making my old soul / nurse heart sing!

TIP: This hotel is about 20 minutes from where you can catch a shuttle for the balloon fiesta but, if you plan to stay there for the event, you have to book about one year in advance.

Day 3: The International Balloon Fiesta 

**fun fact about me, I have a strange obsession with hot air balloons and this event was a balloon lovers’ DREAM.

TIP: get to the park and rides no later than 4:30 AM and bring a HEAVY coat!

Day 4: The Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe

Santa Fe is about a 1 hour, easy drive from New Mexico.

Our main reason for visiting Santa Fe was to see The Loretto Chapel. If you haven’t heard of the mysteries that lie around there spiral staircase take a moment to do a little reading. It may boost your faith in the process!

Day 5: Petrified Forest National Park and Drive to Sedona, AZ

Next up, another drive by park viewing! On our way to Sedona, we were able to hit a little bit of route 66 and drive through Petrified Forest National park!

Where we stayedJunipine Resort

Where we ate: Oak Creek Brewery

Day  6: Sedona

Up at the crack of dawn to catch our Pink Jeep Tour of the Sedona red rocks. Highly highly recommended!

Where we hiked: Devil’s Bridge : listed as moderate ( and if you’re from Ohio, its extreme. Scrambles galore!)

Where we ate: The Cowboy Club

Day 7: A drive to the Grand Canyon for Mule Riding

If theres one way to see the Canyon, it by mule back. While we didn’t go into the Canyon… stay tuned for day 8.

Where we stayed: El Tovar

Where we ate: El Tovar conveniently has a nice restaurant located in the hotel, reservations are strongly recommended.

Day 8: Plane over the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, and Rafting on the Colorado River. 

Now, if theres ANOTHER WAY to see the canyon, its by plane and raft. This is an experience with a view that I will never forget. The day was packed full of activities and was included in an all day tour.

TIP: Bring water proof gear and warm clothes if going in the fall months!

Day 9: Monument Valley

If you’re a western fan or grew up loving John Wayne movies like I did, Monument Valley is a must see! I couldn’t tell you how many times I said the scenery looked “like a back drop”. We arrived around 2 pm, and were able to hike a few hours before checking in to our sunset horseback riding tour! The view from Monument Valley at Sunset was like nothing I have ever seen before. It was almost like stepping back in time.

Where we stayed:The View

  • The naming of this hotel could not be more accurate. We stayed in the cabins due to the raving reviews they received and I have never been more willing to wake up at 5 am than I was the next morning because … THE VIEW.

Where we hiked: Wild Cat Trail

Where we ate: The View Hotel ( the closest restaurant on the reservation)

Tips: If you’re going on the sunset horseback tour-bring a warm coat! I went from tank top to down vest in about one hour!

Day 10: Back to Salt lake to catch our plane back to Cincinnati

The most bitter sweet ride ever. Ten days of constant movement, I will admit, was exhausting but, it was completely worth it and was spent with two of my most favorite people.

Im now even more in love with the National Parks Service than I was before! So I leave you with a question, where to next?!

Local Travel

Young at Heart in Columbus, OH: Day 2

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Like we said yesterday, viewing a city, especially your favorite city, is so refreshing and fun to see through the eyes of a child. And thats exactly how I felt on Saturday morning. Why? Well, first of all, it was a game day (once again…go bucks.) Second, we were taking my nephew to Jurassic Quest –  America’s largest and most realistic dinosaur event featuring more than 100 dinosaurs!

Let me pause here to say that I always wanted to be Ellie Sattler in Jurassic Park when I was growing up–my childhood passion for paleontology wasn’t one that would exactly soar in Hamilton, Ohio so, here I am. Jessica, Pediatric Nurse on the weekdays; Aunt B, Dinosaur enthusiast, on the weekends.

Our first stop was, once again, coffee and breakfast. The Homewood Suits Columbus / OSU on Lane Avenue serves a great continental breakfast … helloooo hand made waffles!

We then made our way to Jurassic Quest at the Columbus convention center.

Walking up to the door, my buddy was super excited to see the “Long necks, T-Rex, and ….horses.” While things fell short on the equestrian front, kids can saddle up and ride dinosaurs at Jurassic Quest!

“Buddy” right before he rode a “seratritops”

We then made our way to the bounce houses. If you’re anything like us, you’ll forget your socks even when you said one million and a half times, “let’s not forget socks for the bounce house.” Don’t fret, complimentary socks were provided and he was off and bouncing before we knew it.

You’re probably wondering, ok so where are these massive dinosaurs? We had to warm up to those because they were SO realistic. I myself wasn’t so sure I wanted to turn my back on the life size, roaring T-Rex.

We took a lap around the dinosaurs, stopped to get one painted on our face (of course) and ended at the dino shop were we proceeded to spend lots of dollas on dinos #worthit. A little about the face painting station … Jurassic Quest has this amaaaazing set up where you buy your face painting ticket and reserve a spot in line via text message! No waiting in a long line with an impatient little one. We were up against a rapidly approaching nap time so we didn’t get to explore every inch of the exhibit, but there’s truly something for every kid at Jurassic Quest. From walking dinosaur rides, craft stations, science stations and green screen photography, you could easily spend an entire day there.

Tips and Tricks:

  1. Get to Jurassic Quest early, like doors open early- it tends to get more crowded in the afternoon.
  2. If your budget allows, splurge for the VIP upgrade so you can enjoy everything Jurassic Quest has to offer.
  3. Kids under 2 years old are free!
  4. Bring socks for your little dino lover so he/she can play on the bounce houses.
  5. Bring your energy. If your little guy or gal loves dinos as much as ours, you’ll be doing lots of chasing.
  6. Bring your camera – there are lots of photo opportunities you won’t want to miss!
  7. Act like a kid again. Embrace your inner Ellie Sattler and have the time of your life!

Lunch near Columbus Convention Center:

  1. North Market: similar to Findlay Market if you’re a Cincinnatian, but a unique place to stop and one of my favorites in Columbus! This place BUZZES on Saturdays so proceed with caution.
  2. Native Cold Pressed: for the smoothie and juice lovers
  3. Forno Pizza: for the fancier folks – their Hawaiian pizza is my all time favorite!
  4. Pies and Pints
  5. If you want to see campus, there are PLENTY of restaurants going north on High street!


Local Travel

Young at Heart in Columbus, OH: Day 1

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Sometimes the best way to experience a city, no matter how familiar you are with the area, is to be lead by the hand of a child. Specifically your doesn’t-slow-down-for-anything nephew. I spent 4 years exploring Columbus while attending The Ohio State University (ahem……go bucks.), attending concerts, trying new restaurants and touring the city with my roommates. Since graduation, I’ve tried to visit as often as I can and rarely do I turn down the opportunity to spend time in my favorite city. So when Em had this grand plan to pack up her two year old son and head up to Columbus for a weekend full of toddler inspired fun, my bags were practically already packed.

Both family and budget friendly Columbus OH is a great place for a little getaway, no matter your age. We had such a great time as guests of the Columbus Zoo and Jurassic Quest, we thought we’d share our faves from our little weekend trip with all of you.

Where we started: 

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium


First on our list was the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Okay okay …. first on our list was actually coffee and donuts. Anyway, moving on …  We are frequent visitors (and members) of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens. It is one of our favorite attractions in the Cincinnati area and has such a wonderful reputation … so why visit the Columbus Zoo? Because, not all zoo’s are alike, especially the Columbus Zoo! New animals, exhibits, rides and attractions make every zoo a completely different experience. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is the home of Jack Hanna, and the new NatGeo WILD show, Secrets of the Zoo and is known for its manatee rehabilitation and gorilla surrogacy programs.

What we loved most:

  • Stroller/wheelchair accessibility – The Zoo is nearly completely flat (a welcome difference if you’re used to schlepping a wagon or stroller through the hills at the Cincinnati Zoo) Automatic doors were also everywhere. Being 8.5 months pregnant, Em decided to rent a motorized scooter so she would be able to keep up with us and found all the automatic doors to be incredibly convenient.
  • Dinosaur Island – If there’s one thing my nephew loves more than a trip to the Zoo, it’s dinosaurs. He’s obsessed. So naturally we couldn’t pass up Dinosaur Island exhibit and boat ride
  • Heart of Africa – Seeing zebra, giraffe, antelope and other African animals all playing and grazing together was unlike any other Africa exhibit we’d ever seen. A definite must see! Also, I highly suggest embracing your inner child and jump in line to ride a camel – because I sure did.


Upcoming Events at The Columbus Zoo: 

  • Colo’s Classic car show (October 7th)
  • Boo at the Zoo (Last 2 weekends in October) – pumpkin-palooza carved pumpkin display, pumpkin smashes for animals and treat stations for the little ones!
  • Wildlights (November 15 – January 6) The Columbus Zoo is lit up with more than 3 million lights and several animated light shows.

Suggestions and Tips: 

  • After purchasing tickets for a few of the rides, we came to the realization it would have been more cost effective to purchase a wristband than to buy individual tickets for the attractions.
  • For our next visit we will likely bring some healthy snacks along. (Check the cooler/bag policy before packing!) We had a hard time finding healthy options for lunch, but on a 90 degree day we opted for a double scoop ice cream cone from the little ice cream shop just inside the gates.

Where we Stayed: 
Homewood Suites Columbus/OSU

This was the perfect place for us to stay after a long day at the zoo. Huge rooms and a full kitchen were perfect for a take out dinner from Hudson 29 next door (because an un-napped two year old in a restaurant may as well be a time bomb.)

A clean, well kept pool provided a relaxing after dinner activity and I took advantage of the spacious fitness center … while pregnant Emily took advantage of having a whole bed to herself and total control of the thermostat.


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Local Guide: Fresh Picked Apples

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This time of year my mind seems to wander in two different directions. Half of me is soaking in the last of the summer sun while the other half longs for cooler weather, scarves and changing leaves. When it comes to fall comfort food, apple recipes are some of my favorites. I know, I know, it’s only August, but I just can’t help but let my mind creep forward a little while I relish these last few weeks of summer.

We’ll have an autumn apple recipe lineup for you in a about a month, but in the meantime we thought we’d give you a little guide to where to snag the best fresh picked apples (and where to pick your own, too!)

  • McGlasson Farms – Fresh and locally grown produce including apples!
  • Brumbaugh Fruit Farm – This place has everything! Loaded with activities for kids of all ages and a market and bakery make this the perfect family friendly fall destination.
  • Iron’s Fruit Farm – Not only can you get your fresh picked apples in their produce market, but they even provide wonderful recipes for your fresh produce on their website.
  • Tuken’s Farm Market – Apple picking days are coming up soon! Click the link for more info!
  • Lebanon Country Applefest – Not only can you buy fresh apples in bulk at the Country Applefest, you can also get just about every kind of baked, fried or cider apple treat you can think of.
  • Shaw Farms –  Shaw Farms gets the Fall Festival party started early! Visit between mid september – end of October for fresh apples, pumpkins and fun for the whole family.
Local Travel

“Bloom Where You Are Planted.”

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“Bloom in the garden where He has planted you

…radiate the beauty and fragrance of His providence” 

Saint Francis de Sales

There’s something about going back to your hometown. Ease, simplicity, comfort. Something about knowing the back roads, shortcuts and local favorites that makes you immediately feel welcome and at rest. Both of us have had the “move away” itch from time to time. For me, it was Nashville, Tennessee – for Jess, it was New York City. Yet, something kept us right here in Ohio. Even when Music City and The Big Apple tug at us from time to time, we’ve never been able to pull up our roots, pack our bags and go.

Scrolling through Instagram, it’s easy to feel the need to compete. Fashion, travel, parenting, home renovations, fitness … no matter the topic, we’ve all felt the pressure to do more, be more, go more, spend more. Social media can make you feel like you couldn’t possibly be happy, truly happy, right where you are, with what you have, with who you have. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve found myself playing the “I wish ….” game from time to time … perfection, wealth, beauty, “success.” Jess and I have talked about this plenty of times, but we’ve always come to the conclusion that we are happiest with simplicity and familiarity. For us that means living “in the garden where He planted us.”

We’re hometown girls and that’s okay. 

    While we’ve toyed with other plans since college graduation, we’ve learned to accept that God’s plan for us didn’t involve a busy bustling city or the country music capital. No no, we were meant to stay right here and create a blooming, beautiful, “fragrant” life without leaving the state where we were born.

We were meant to let our lives blossom right where our roots began and that simplicity is what brings us true happiness. Our family is here, our traditions are here, and our hearts are here. And here we’ll stay. 

Be happy with your little corner of His garden, wherever that may be. For some of us it’s where we grew up, others have been transplanted and have nurtured a new garden. Wherever God has led you, create a beautiful life right where you are with the people who love you.

You’re comfortable. You’re happy. You’re home. Let that be enough.