5 of the Best Things About Ohio

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These are 5 things we love about the great state of Ohio!

Thank you to Bob Evans for partnering with us on this post!

My husband, my kids and I were all born in Ohio! While my husband and I have lived in other cities and states, we both eventually moved back to Ohio and have come to love this state for all the great things it has to offer! Here are 5 of the best things about Ohio:

1. Lake Erie Has A Lot to Offer Ohioans

Boy on Lake Erie beach

I grew up in Northeast Ohio and took Lake Erie for granted for most of my life. But after having kids, my husband and I started searching for vacation spots that didn’t require flying or a long drive in the car. We were still craving being at the beach and by water, so we started to explore Lake Erie. We have vacationed at Lake Erie for the past three years now and we have made many treasured memories with our young kids. In just a 2 hour drive from Columbus you can enjoy beaches, lighthouses, boat rides, water skiing, fishing and fresh fish to eat!

2. In Ohio You Can Experience a Variety of Landscapes

Waterfall at Hayden Falls, Dublin, Ohio

If you’re not from Ohio, the variety in landscape within this great state might just surprise you! From the hills of Hocking Hills and Southern Ohio to the rolling cornfields of Amish Country to the beaches of Lake Erie to the skyscrapers of the major cities, no matter what your scene is, you can find it in Ohio. It doesn’t take too long to get from one view to the next! You can easily spend your summer weekends road tripping through Ohio and experience a wide variety of scenery!

3. Ohio is the Birthplace of So Many Amazing Restaurants

Buckeye Hotcakes at Bob Evans Restaurants

We enjoy and take full advantage of so many local restaurants! The Ohio food scene is growing and with Ohio’s agriculture, we are able to enjoy so many local, seasonal ingredients. Living in Columbus we also enjoy being a “test market” for new products before much of the rest of the country! While there are tons of local food options, it can be easy to forget that many large restaurant chains also had their start in Ohio!

Bob Evans himself started his own restaurant in Rio Grande, Ohio nearly 65 years ago! Bob Evans was a generous man who was fiercely proud of his home state of Ohio! In celebration of Ohio, Bob Evans Restaurants has added Bob Evans Buckeye Hotcakes to the menu for a limited time and is calling all Buckeyes to share their state pride on social media by posting a picture or video of whatever it is that makes them proud to be an Ohioan, using the hashtag: #TheOhioWay. Make sure to hop over to my Instagram page where I am hosting a giveaway! You could have a chance to win a $25 Bob Evans gift card!

4. Ohio Has a Vibrant Capital City

downtown skyline, Columbus, Ohio

If you already follow my blog then it’s no secret that we love Columbus! Columbus is the Midwest’s hidden gem, offering all of the amazing things about a large city, without a lot of the stressors of urban living. I lived in one of the top 5 largest cities in the US for 4 years and when I moved to Columbus I traded away the frustrations of parking, traffic jams, high crime and high costs of living while still enjoying all the benefits of a big city: theater, museums, job opportunities, a vibrant food scene and so much more! When it comes to things for kids and families to do, there is really no end in sight!

5. In Ohio You Experience All Four Seasons

fall trees at Inniswood Metro Park, Columbus, Ohio

I can’t believe I’m about to say this because I am not a huge fan of Winter: but what is it that makes Spring in Ohio so sweet? The fact that we survived the preceding Winter! And when it comes down to it, I am actually happy that we get to experience all four seasons in Ohio. As much as I like warmer weather and sunshine, I do love the beauty of fall, my kids love playing in the snow and I have been attempting to try to embrace each season and enjoy the rhythm that the changing seasons naturally builds into our lives.

We are proud to be Ohioans and these are just 5 of the things that make this state GREAT! What do you love about Ohio? Make sure to share your Ohio pride on social media using #TheOhioWay!

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Farmland in Ohio


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Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Columbus, Ohio

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Peach Picking Fun at Branstool Orchards

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This post was written in partnership with Branstool Orchards.

Peaches at the grocery store are hit or miss, am I right? Mostly miss, in my opinion. I’m always afraid to buy them because they usually disappoint. There is nothing like a sweet, juicy peach, but they are just hard to come by at your local grocery store.

Did you know you could pick your own peaches in Central Ohio? I’ll be honest, I did not. I figured peaches had to come on a truck from Georgia, therefore they were picked early with a makeshift calculation for landing on the shelf at peak ripeness. (Can you tell I’m a little bitter about grocery store peaches?)

Little did I know, amazing, juicy, sweet peaches are yours to be had less than an hour down the road from downtown Columbus (Ohio, not Columbus, GA 😉 )! Branstool Orchards is a beautiful spot off Route 62 in Utica, OH where you can pick your own peaches! (And not just peaches! Apples and pears are available, too!)

Picking your own peaches at Branstool Orchards is a relaxing and family-friendly experience. Kids are encouraged to take part, dogs are welcome, and there are picnic tables throughout the orchard where you can stop and have a snack or a picnic! Branstool Orchards wants your family to have a good time when you visit! They want it to be an outing where your whole family is relaxed and enjoying the process, not just the end result!

You can pick up a wagon (for either your kids or your peaches) and stroll through the orchard. I think most kids LOVE this kind of thing! It’s so good for them to make the connection about where their food comes from, and I think they enjoy it more when they know they’ve hand-picked what they’re eating.

I don’t know many kids you have to convince to eat a peach, but mine can be weird about eating a lot of things I personally think are delicious, so you never know. I do know that being able to pick the peaches and eat them out in the orchard made my kids 100% willing to eat them at home – something that is never a given!

You guys, it’s beautiful! It’s relaxing and unpretentious. Are there farms that are pretentious? I don’t know, but that just feels like a good way to describe the orchard!

Peach season is typically July through September. This year things came a little early at the orchard, so they are expecting just 2-3 more weeks of peach availability! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on what peaches are currently available.

If you don’t have time to pick your own, no worries! Pre-picked peaches are available in the market.

Branstool Orchards handpicks their own peaches at the perfect point of ripeness and then employees hand sort them, picking out “seconds” that don’t meet their quality standards. We got to see this first hand, and you can too, as the workspace is visible from and attached to the market. Don’t worry, the “seconds” don’t go to waste, you can buy them at a reduced price for canning or jam!

Branstool Orchards is partnering with several local businesses: Columbus Brewing Company is using Branstool peaches for a peach beer! If you head down the road to Velvet Ice Cream Factory, you can get a peach sundae made from Branstool peaches!  Urban Spreads uses Branstool peaches in their jam, sold at the market! So many amazing ways to eat (or drink) a peach!

Another great thing about the produce grown at Branstool Orchards is their chemical-free initiatives. Over the past several years they have been reducing their use of chemical pesticides by using mating disruption and companion planting. You can read more about that here. They also polish their apples instead of using the wax you will find on your grocery store apples which is another bonus!

With the exception of just a few items, everything in the farm market is from Ohio. The produce that is not peaches, apples or pears is from local Amish farms, provided for your one-stop convenience, and (just so you know) there are also two options for cobbler topping available for purchase! 😉

If you can’t make it out for peaches, Apples will be available to pick until November! You can see the approximate ripening dates here and make a plan for this fall!

I hope you and your kids can carve out a day for peach picking before the season ends!

Know Before You Go:

Website: Branstool Orchards
Address: 5895 Johnstown-Utica Rd NE, Utica, OH 43080
Phone: 740-892-3989
Hours: Monday – Saturday: 9:00 AM-6:00PM, Sunday: 10:00 AM-5:00 PM

  • It is recommended that you allow at least 1 hour for U-Pick.
  • U-Pick peaches are $1.50/lb.
  • There is a $10 minimum for peach-picking.
  • Boxes are provided for picking.

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Kid-Friendly Put-in-Bay: 11 Things to Do with Your Kids

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Disclaimer: This post was written in partnership with Lake Erie Shores and Islands.

I’ve received a few raised eyebrows when I say we took our kids to Put-in-Bay while on our vacation to Lake Erie in July. A lot of people think that Put-in-Bay is just a party island, but I’ll have you know that there is plenty of family-friendly fun to be had!

My husband and I have been to Put-in-Bay 3 times since we were married. Once just the two of us and twice with the kids. By trip three, experience (and some great input from Lake Erie Shores and Islands) had taught us a few things and trip three was probably the smoothest and most fun!

Getting There:

To get to Put-in-Bay, you must take a ferry from either Port Clinton or Catawba and there are two options, Miller Ferry and Jet Express.

We’re kind of partial to Miller Ferry – I don’t know, it must be the name! 😉 We’ve always taken Miller Ferry to the island probably because, besides the name, it’s also, by far, the cheapest.

Taking the ferry is part of the experience, for the kids! Mine loved the boat ride and looked forward to it as part of our day! Miller Ferries run generally every half hour during the summer season. You can see the schedule here.

Getting Around:

When you get to the island you’ll probably want to take some form of transportation (besides walking) to get to downtown Put-in-Bay. Options include a taxi, golf cart, bikes or the Lime Kiln bus, which is what I would recommend if you don’t plan on driving a golf cart around all day! The bus is $2.50/person and children under 6 are free. This was also part of the fun for my kids since they don’t get to ride a school bus! You can board the bus at the top of the hill after exiting Miller Ferry. Cash only!

The Lime Kiln Bus will drop you off at The Depot in Downtown Put-in-Bay, and from there, most people travel around by foot or golf cart. Cars are allowed on the island, but golf carts, bicycles and feet are the most common methods of transportation. Downtown Put-in-Bay is full of restaurants, bars, shops and a few attractions, and, on our first two trips, this is the majority of what we saw.

Jill at Lake Erie Shores and Islands offered us passes for the Put-in-Bay Tour Train for this trip and this tour train is what made our third trip to the island the best! I cannot recommend it enough! A lot of the activities I’m going to list here are stops on the Put-in-Bay Tour Train and I will note those with an asterisk (*) next to the number.

Here are 11 things to do with the kids when you get to Put-in-Bay:

1. Put-in-Bay Tour Train

The best thing about the tour train is, maybe obviously, the transportation. You’re simply not going to be able to walk all of these places with kids, and with the tour train, you get an education along with your transportation!

We learned so much history about the island as well as what island life is like in the present day. We saw the school, the only 2 churches on the island and got a snippet into daily life as a Put-in-Bay resident. I compare this with our first two visits where we didn’t see much of the island and had no idea what other things there were to do there, and the difference is night and day.

When you take the tour train, you pay for one loop. You can get off and back on at each of the 6 stops, but you can only go around once. So look at the map and make sure you don’t miss a stop because you will not be allowed to circle back around to it again. The trains run every 30 minutes so keep an eye on your watch while you’re enjoying your stop.

The Tour Train makes 6 stops including: Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, Heinemann Winery & Crystal Cave, Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial & Visitor Center, The Doller House & Museum of Island Life, Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center and the Aquatic Vistors Center.

You can buy an Island Fun Pack which includes ferry tickets, the Tour Train, plus discounted admission to several island attractions! See all the details here.

2. DeRivera Park

DeRivera park is named for the founder of Put-in-Bay, Jose DeRivera. It’s a beautiful, shady area with lots of picnic tables and a large fountain.

Within the park is Will’s Playground which has two play structures, one for older and one for younger kids. This park is a great place to come back to throughout your day to rest and regroup. There are also public rooms and showers here.

*3. Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center

Perry’s Cave and Family Fun Center is all about family fun. Options for activities here include Perry’s Cave, Gemstone Mining, The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay, War of 1812 Holes Miniature Golf, Gotcha Laser Tag, Fort aMAZE’n, Rock Climbing Wall, Antique Car Museum, gift shops and DanDee’s Snack Shack.

The Tour Train offers one general stop at Perry’s Cave and all of the activities are within a short walk of the drop off. I’m going to tell you about the two things we chose to do when we were here below . . .

4. Antique Car Museum

Housed in a large barn at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center, the Antique Car Museum is free! There are rare Ford Model T’s and A’s, a popcorn truck, and other auto-related memorabilia!

5. Butterfly House

We chose to do the The Butterfly House at Put-in-Bay as our main activity at Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center. We all enjoyed the Butterfly House which was FULL of butterflies! The brochure says “hundreds of butterflies” and I believe them! Though no touching is allowed, it was not uncommon for butterflies to land on us and we were able to see them up close. In addition to walking among the butterflies, there is a large gift shop with educational gifts and lots of butterfly souvenirs.

*6. Aquatic Vistors Center

The AVC is operated by The Ohio State University in partnership with Ohio Department of Natural Resources. It was a fish hatchery that closed in 1988 and became an educational facility which includes the OSU Stone Laboratory, OSU’s island campus on Lake Erie!

If you take a walk through the center, you can learn about Ohio fishing, research projects and view the live fish in open tanks. There are some kids activities, a wall puzzle and coloring sheets. In the summer, the center hosts kids programs on Saturdays.

Kids under age 16 can go out onto the dock to fish for free! Though they didn’t catch anything and my husband nearly dropped his phone off the side, this was a highlight! 🙂

7. Lake Erie Islands Nature & Wildlife Center

The Nature and Wildlife Center houses what was once a private collection of mounted wild animals, many from Alaska. In the back of the property, there is a frog pond and a nature trail that will take you in a complete circle.

8. Frosty Pizza

Frosty Pizza is an easy, family friendly stop for lunch or dinner. We got the Family Deal which included a large pizza, salad, breadsticks and 4 drinks for $30.

*9. Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial

You can’t miss Perry’s Memorial from most of the island! The grounds and Visitor’s Center is open to the public but the observation deck is closed for repair in 2017.

10. PIB Candy Bar

The PIB Candy Bar is a fun stop for tons of candy options and ice cream!

11. Kimberly’s Carousel

Kimberly’s Carousel provides musical accompaniment to much of the downtown area and costs $1.50 to ride!

Are you surprised there are so many family-friendly things to see and do at Put-in-Bay? 🙂 All of these activities give you plenty of options to enjoy the island with your kids!

If you’re planning a trip to Lake Erie Shores and Islands, make sure to check out my post Exploring Ohio With Kids: Bellevue for another fun day trip in the area!

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