8 Ways to Explore Mt. Gilead State Park with your Family

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Mt. Gilead State Park, south of Mansfield Ohio, is a small Ohio State Park that offers a getaway in nature for families!

bench next to the lake in Mt. Gilead State Park

My family visited Mt. Gilead State Park during the summer of 2020 when nearly everyone was seeking out outdoor activities for their families! The park was a great halfway location for us to meet up with my parents who live in Northeast Ohio and we were able to spend the day together fishing, picnicking and playing in the park!

Mt. Gilead Lake, Ohio

Mt. Gilead is a smaller state park which makes it very manageable and easy to see in a day or an afternoon. With picnic shelters, a natural-themed playground, fishing and creeking there are many activities that families with kids of all ages can enjoy!

Here are some activities your family can do when visiting Mt. Gilead State Park:

1. Camping at Mt. Gilead State Park Campground

While my family did not camp during our visit to the park we noticed the campground immediately when we arrived!

The campground has 22 full-service sites with water, sewer and electric and 37 electric sites. There is a shower house and camp store. There are two Camper Cabins inside the campground area that offer 2 bunk beds, microwave, refrigerator, TV, and household items.

Reservations can be made at the campground at Mt Gilead State Park up to 6 months in advance. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-866-644-6727. 

2. Fishing in Mt. Gilead Lake

dad and two boys fishing at Mt. Gilead Lake

The ODNR website states that the Mt. Gilead Lake contains bass, bluegill and other panfish. I don’t know my fish very well and we didn’t manage to catch anything while were were there so I will take their word for it. LOL! There were other fishermen there having better luck than us so I can validate that there are fish in the lake!

Trees reflecting in the water in the lake at Mt. Gilead State Park

A valid Ohio fishing license is required to fish in the lakes if you are 16 and older. Your Ohio fishing license can be purchased online or at a local marina.

3. Creeking

boy walking on the rocks in the creek

My boys enjoyed playing in the shallow area west of the dam at the Lower Lake. In fact we spent a LOT of time here. They were very entertained and were not deterred when it began to sprinkle! Bring water shoes and some nets to play in the water and look for minnows if that’s your jam!

the dam at Mt. Gilead State Park near Mansfield, Ohio

There is a parking area closer to this creek area that is west of the main park entrance on Route 95. Or you can access this area by walking on the hiking trail around the lake. Take a look at the map of the park before you visit!

4. Playground

playground at Mt. Gilead State Park Campground

There is a small, natural-themed playground on the property with a tunnel, slides, climbing structures and swings. There is also a basketball court and volleyball court available as well as disc golf. 

natural themed playground at Mt. Gilead State Park

5. Picnicking

picnic pavilion at Mt. Gilead State Park

Picnic areas are located throughout the park. There are convenient pavilion areas near the restrooms and across from the playground.

covered picnic pavilion at Mt. Gilead State Park in Ohio

6. Hiking the Trails within Mt. Gilead State Park

hiking trail at Mt. Gilead State Park

Hiking in Mt. Gilead State Park is on unpaved trails. There are 6 trails, the longest being the Lake View Trail at 1.7 miles. Most of our hiking was done around the Lower Lake and the Piney Woods Loop which extends north of the dam. 

boy walking on the path in Mt. Gilead State Park

7. Boating on the Upper and Lower Lakes

lake and trees in the park

Paddle boats, sailboats and boats with electric motors are allowed on the Mt. Gilead Lake. 

8. Pick up an Ohio State Parks Passport

If exploring Ohio State Parks is something you enjoy, make sure to pick up a Park Passport! When you visit, you can collect stamps from park rangers. The book also includes stickers you can use if a Nature Center isn’t open or you can’t find someone to stamp the book for you. 

This little gem is just $10 and gives lots of information about each park. It’s actually a really great reference tool if you’re looking for somewhere new to visit! There were so many parks I didn’t even know about. The book is conveniently divided by area of the state!

Ohio State Park Passport

You can purchase the Park Passport online or within the parks. We were able to purchase our Passport at the Salt Fork State Lodge.

Things to do Near Mt. Gilead State Park

Ohio Bird Sanctuary

If you’re looking for something else to do in the area, about 25 minutes from Mt. Gilead is Ohio Bird Sanctuary where you can see birds who have been injured and can no longer live in the wild. There is an outdoor bird display, butterfly gardens, a natural play area and opportunities for hiking!

Downtown Mansfield, Ohio

Take a ride on the carousel, grab lunch or a cup of coffee, and visit Little Buckeye Children’s Museum in downtown Mansfield, about 40 minutes away.

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Exploring Mt. Gilead State Park in Ohio



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WonderLight’s Christmas Glows with Over One Million LED Lights!

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WonderLight’s Christmas is a drive through holiday light display fueled by over one million synchronized LED lights and it’s sure to inspire awe and wonder this Christmas season!

Thank you to WonderLight’s Christmas for sponsoring this post.

tall christmas tree at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

WonderLight’s Christmas is a Drive Through Holiday Light Show that will Put Your Family in the Holiday Spirit!

Christmas has officially arrived in Ohio! WonderLight’s drive through holiday light display has landed at National Trail Raceway in Hebron, Ohio, 30 miles east of downtown Columbus for the second year. This show is unlike any other light display in the Central Ohio area, featuring over 1 million LED lights that are synchronized to the music that plays through your car stereo.

LED tunnel at Christmas in Ohio drive through holiday light display

My family got to experience a sneak peek of this drive through light show the day before it opened and we were glued to our seats, trying to take it all in! The path for vehicles winds through exciting and beautiful displays of light and sound! The synchronized lights were quite impressive!

toy soldiers at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

Synchronized to modern and classic holiday songs, the lights dance and shine to the beat. There are even singing snowmen! My kids were singing along to Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer! It was fun to guess what song was going to play next and my kids were always excited when they recognized it!

synchronized Christmas Tree at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

Some of our favorite parts were the tunnels that you drive through along the path. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many lights! My kids were leaning out the window and singing along!

tunnel to drive through at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

As you approach the Raceway, you will be able to see the show lighting up the area from a distance! The first thing you will probably notice is the 80-foot Christmas Tree! As we approached there were lots of oohs and ahhs – from the kids AND the adults!

synchronized drive through light display near columbus, Ohio

The show takes place every night beginning November 13, 2020 and runs through January 3, 2021. The show will go on, rain or shine! The drive-through path is about 2 miles long and the musical show lasts for 30 minutes before repeating itself. At the show you will be able to donate to the Salvation Army and other organizations that will be announced as the show goes on!

holiday lights on the grounds at Christmas In Ohio

Tips for Visiting WonderLight’s Christmas:

1. Visit on a Weeknight!

If at all possible, it is suggested that you visit on a weeknight! Crowds (and a longer wait time) is expected on weekends! Especially in 2020, when drive-through displays are going to be very popular, it will be important to manage your (and your kids’) expectations for a wait!

WEEKEND UPDATE: Due to long lines and wait times on the weekends, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, timed tickets will be available for purchase online. Entry is not guaranteed for cars who have not pre-purchased tickets. Also on weekends, in order to streamline the process at the entry gate, only the $30 carload pass and group rates will apply.

2. Tune In and Turn Off!

Be ready to turn ON your radio to 88.3 FM so you can hear the music. You need to have your radio station properly tuned in order to fully experience the synchronized show! You will also be asked to turn OFF your head lights to get the full effect of the show! 

drive through holiday light display in Hebron, Ohio

3. Pack a Snack!

We’ve learned this lesson the hard way a few times on longer drives! A few ideas include bringing a thermos of hot chocolate (but not dolling it out until you arrive!) or packing some cookies or popcorn to enjoy while watching the show! I packed a bag of home-popped popcorn for each person in our family and no one was allowed to eat it until they got to the show!

a tunnel of red lights at WonderLight's Christmas holiday lights drive through near Columbus, Ohio

4. Get Cozy!

One of the great parts about this experience is that you don’t have to leave your car to enjoy it! So, even if it’s freezing, you can be warm and comfy in your car. However, I would recommend dressing warm because it is fun to roll down the windows to take pictures or video or just get closer to the experience! So pack some gloves or a warm blanket if you think you might want to roll the windows down!

lights at WonderLight's Christmas in Ohio

5. Save Money!

Want to save money? Do the math! The show costs $7/person, but kids 3 and under are free. Compare that to the price of a carload which is $30. Larger families can save money depending on the ages of their kids! Or plan to take a mini-van with your friends and pay just $30 for up to 7 people and save up to $19!

a tunnel of lighted snowflakes at National Trail Raceway - WonderLight's Christmas

Know Before You Go:

Location: National Trail Raceway, 2650 National Road SW, Hebron, OH 43025

Dates: Nightly, November 13, 2020 – January 3, 2021

Times: 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM  – Any cars still in line at time of closing will be permitted to enter and enjoy the show.

Price: $7.00 per person on weekdays, children ages 3 & under are free! Carload Special: $30.00 for up to 7 passengers. Weekend pricing is $30/car.

Tickets: Purchase tickets in advance at  www.christmasinohio.com/tickets or at the gate.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Due to long lines and wait times on the weekends, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, timed tickets will be available for purchase online. Entry is not guaranteed (on the weekend) for cars who have not pre-purchased tickets. Also on weekends, in order to streamline the process at the entry gate, only the $30 carload pass and group rates will apply.

christmas tree at the end of a light tunnel at WonderLight's Christmas in Hebron Ohio


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WonderLight's Christmas is a drive through holiday lights display!

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The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is a Hidden Gem in Mansfield, Ohio

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See bald eagles, feed the birds and take a hike at this awesome bird sanctuary in Mansfield, Ohio! This place is a hidden gem that provides education and a unique experience for kids!

Ohio Bird Sanctuary Sign

I found out about the Ohio Bird Sanctuary thanks to an ad on Facebook! After seeing it a few times, I finally clicked and was happy to find out it was located just outside of Mansfield and would make a great outdoor meeting place for us and my parents who live in Wayne County!

We really didn’t know what to expect beyond the pictures on their website, but I think it’s safe to say we were all pleasantly surprised by what we discovered when we arrived!

First I want to say, if you are coming from Columbus, the drive involves a lot of rural, back roads. It took us about 1 hour and 15 minutes but it will be a quicker trip for those of you in the northern suburbs of Columbus!

two boys hiking on the trail at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

We spent about 2.5 hours here, though you could easily spend more or less time, depending on your schedule. Everything about the visit is self paced. There are picnic tables outside if you want to pack a lunch. You can extend your visit by taking longer hikes or spending more time on the playground.

There really is a lot to do here and I think it is well worth the trip from Columbus!

Take a look at all there is to do at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary:

Ohio Bird Sanctuary Visitor Center

The Visitor Center at Ohio Bird Sanctuary, Mansfield, Ohio

Upon arriving you will first want to check in at the Visitor Center. There are public restrooms here, a gift shop and the entrance to  the bird display area. Entrance to this area is $3 for adults (16 years and over) $1 for children (kids under 2 years are free), and $1 for military and individuals from assisted care centers (no charge for caregivers). 

Gift Shop inside the Visitor Center

You will need to go through the Visitor Center to access the live bird display area. If you end up leaving the gated area to see other parts of the property, you must come back through the Visitors Center to reenter. You can reenter as many times as you need to during your visit.

The Bird Display Area

Bird Display Area at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

The live bird displays include over 30 different species of birds that have been injured in some way and are no longer able to live on their own in the wild. The Ohio Bird Sanctuary will also take in birds that you might find that are hurt or injured!

people viewing the birds in the Bird Viewing Area

You are free to walk the paths for as long as you desire! There are bald eagles, falcons, owls, crows, and more! Fun fact: it takes a bald eagle 5 years to develop its signature white head!

boy looking at bald eagles at the bird sanctuary in Mansfield, Ohio

a red-tailed hawk housed at the bird sanctuary

Songbird Aviary

people feeding birds in the songbird aviary at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

Included in your admission to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary is the Songbird Aviary. You can purchase small containers of food in the Visitor Center for $.25 so you can feed the birds in the aviary! After our first trip through, we came back to buy bird food and feeding them turned out to be a highlight of our trip!

boy feeding a mourning dove in the songbird aviary

Inside the Songbird Aviary, birds are free to fly around or roam around on the ground. Keep an eye out as you walk! If you stay still for long enough, they will come up to your cup of food to eat!

Butterfly Garden

Inside the Bird Display Area are butterfly gardens so keep an eye out for butterflies!

boy looking through binoculars at the butterfly garden within the bird sanctuary

Naturescape Play Area

the sign for the Naturescape Play Area at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary

Once outside the bird display area, follow the path to the Naturescape Play Area! It’s a super fun natural play area with a bird theme (of course)! There is a fun (albeit slow) caterpillar slide, a sand area, a vine for swinging, animal tracks and tic tac toe, just to name a few activities! 

boy on two wires at the Naturescape Play Area

boy measuring his wingspan

the Naturescape Play Area at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

Barred Owl Trail

The Barred Owl Trail at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

The Barred Owl Trail is the closest hiking trail to the bird displays. There are several other trails available and they are all under 1 mile long. We took the Barred Owl Trail to the bird blind, which was a little anti-climactic, but still a nice hike! Check this link for a map of the property and the different trails available.

two boys looking through the bird blind at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary

The Barred Owl Trail is a narrow dirt trail with a couple of shoots off in different directions so I recommend checking your map often! In actuality all of the distances between the points of interest are pretty short.

Picnic Areas

There are two picnic areas within the sanctuary. One is close to the Naturescape Play Area and would make a fun picnic spot! The other picnic area is right by the parking lot at the Visitor Center.

The entrance fee to the Ohio Bird Sanctuary is quite reasonable, but if you need a free activity, you could hike on the trails and play at the playground at no cost and you would still be able to view one of the eagles from the outside!

boys walking on the path through the Ohio Bird Sanctuary

We had a great time visiting the Ohio Bird Sanctuary and I think it is well worth the drive from Central Ohio! The 90 acre property is beautiful and you can tell it is well cared for! A visit here would make a great field trip this year!

If you’re looking for more things to do in Mansfield, Ohio, check out: Day Trip: Downtown Mansfield and Little Buckeye Children’s Museum.

Know Before You Go:

Ohio Bird Sanctuary

3774 Orweiler Rd, Mansfield, OH 44903
Phone: 419-884-4295 
Visit the website

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM, Sunday: 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Special Summer Extended Hours: Tuesday & Thursday open 10:00 AM- 7:00 PM

  • Home school programs are available throughout the school year. 
  • Masks are required in the Visitor Center but not required when outdoors and able to social distance.

physical distancing sign at Ohio Bird Sanctuary

Exploring Columbus with Your Kids

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Ohio Bird Sanctuary

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