Local Travel

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!

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“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

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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.

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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.

 

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.

Local Travel

5 Reasons to Take a Trip to West Baden Springs Hotel


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Emily turned 30 last week! To celebrate, we’re giving you a peek into her surprise trip and 5 reasons you’ll love French Lick Resort & West Baden Springs Hotel

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This year was a big one. Or so everyone told me. THIRTY.

Sure, thirty sounded older, but doesn’t it also sound more sophisticated? 29 year old me certainly thought so, and I was prepared to celebrate it appropriately. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you my birthday seems to go on forever. Can anyone really fit a celebration that big into 24 short hours? I say no. 

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A little back story here: he knows I love a surprise, but also knows I will drive myself bananas trying to figure it out. So naturally, he told me 2 months ago and then … NOTHING. No clues, no tripped up words, no subtle hints or forgotten receipts left lying on the counter. I had NO idea where we were going.

What I didn’t know was my husband, Jimmy, had planned a surprise getaway for my birthday – which also happens to be our wedding anniversary.

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We hopped in the car, dropped off the kid, grabbed a coffee and were on our way.

A beautiful 3 hour drive ended at the even more beautiful West Baden Springs Hotel. We stayed Thursday – Saturday and had plenty to do. These are just a few of our favorites … in no particular order:

 1. The “Little Things” – West Baden Springs Hotel is full of tiny details to enhance your trip. Our room was gorgeous, he splurged for the Historical Room, knowing my love of antiques and old-timey details. Paned French windows with velvet curtains overlooked the atrium, a claw foot tub, and chocolates and chilled champagne, all there to greet us when we arrived. He also reserved a horse drawn carriage to pick us up from dinner (awwww…) and when we got back to the hotel, a piano was crooning in the atrium so we sat to listen for a while. The perfect ending to a busy day.

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2. The History – The original hotel, built in 1855, was destroyed by a fire in 1901, but was reopened in 1902 by then owner, Lee W. Sinclair. His new design included the beautiful indoor atrium, umbrella-ed by the “Eighth Wonder of the World” dome and a fireplace that could burn 14-foot logs. (Still intact, but not functioning – or at least not when we were there.) The hotel changed hands a few times before it closed its doors and sat empty for nearly 20 years. Read more about the hotels history here.

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3. The Dining – Our first night in French Lick we had reservations at 1875: The Steakhouse, located inside the French Lick Resort which was fantastic. Don’t leave without a piece of cheesecake! We also tried out the decadent Grand Colonnade Restaurant for breakfast and were not disappointed. The only thing better than that waffle bar is the room itself. Gilded and Gorgeous and perfectly grandiose.

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French Lick Resort is the “Birthplace of Tomato Juice.” 1875 serves each guest a shotglass of their signature tomato juice to honor this part of their history.

4. The Relaxing Atmosphere –  On day 2 I was whisked away to the Spa at West Baden Springs Hotel for a couples massage. Once we got over the implied romantics (we’re not the couples massage type, so we spent the first few minutes holding back laughter) we settled in for 50 minutes of quiet relaxation. The kind of quiet you just don’t get when there’s a 1 year old at home. 

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Spa selfies are the best selfies …

We took the rest of the afternoon to take walks and enjoy the view from the breathtaking veranda that wraps around the hotel. We chose two rockers in the sun; I did a crossword and he read the days newspaper. I could’ve stayed there all day. We let the beautiful gardens and surrounding areas lead us. To tell us their stories at their own pace.

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5. The Outdoor Activities – Wooded trails teeming with wildlife surround the hotel grounds, and at varying difficulty levels, there is something for everyone. Paved paths for runners and walkers, rugged woodsy trails for hiking and mountain bikes, and gravel drives for a relaxing walk or drive through the woods. We hiked every day, first down the gravel driveway to the stables, and eventually ventured into the woods for more of a challenge, in awe of the autumn beauty everywhere we looked.

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It’s safe to say we’ll be back, and hopefully very soon!