The Very Best of Ohio

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If you’ve never been to the Midwest or the great state of Ohio, then are you in for a treat! From the outside, Ohio may not look like there would be much going on, but if you blink you could miss several of its hidden gems. For the conscious spender Ohio is a great state to drive through, most importantly because the gas prices compared to almost anywhere else are unbeatable. You can never beat finding cheap gas while driving!

Drive time between the major cities are very reasonable based on the following information from Google Maps:

  • Cincinnati to Columbus – 1 hour, 40 minutes
  • Columbus to Cleveland – 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • Cincinnati to Cleveland – 3 hours, 50 minutes

Whether you’re looking for fun with the family or a night out on the town with some friends, Ohio has a little bit of something for everyone of all ages. So grab your suitcase and let’s go!

Cincinnati

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Photo Credit: David Mark from Pixabay

I lived in this city for two years and there really was never a dull moment. Hyde Park, Oakley, and Mount Adams are a few great places to check out if you’re looking to stay in the area for a few days. The city and surrounding area have a lot to offer for visitors. No matter the season, Cincinnati always has festivities going on downtown to check out. In the summer and fall seasons there are a lot of local festivals and live music that come in and out of the city. The best way to stay on top of everything that’s passing through would be to check out the city’s two most popular event websites – https://www.downtowncincinnati.com/ and https://www.citybeat.com/. These resources will be most helpful for planning ahead for a day or weekend events.

Transportation

Cruising around downtown can be time consuming if you’re looking for a place to park your car. If you’re on the go as a pair of two or with some friends, it’s easier and more convenient to take an Uber almost anywhere you need to go. Since Cincinnati doesn’t have a Metro through downtown, another alternative would be to take the Cincinnati Bell Connector Streetcar. It’s only 3.6 miles long but it is a cheap and quick way to get from one end of the city to the other. Here’s more information to help you place your route should you decide to use the streetcar – https://www.cincinnati-oh.gov/streetcar/design-route/.

If you’re brave enough to drive and feel more comfortable parking downtown (completely safe to do so) there are plenty of parking garages around to choose from. It’s a lot easier to Google parking garage’s around the area you’re going to, so you know where best to park. There are other options around the city to pay and park for timed events or with a car permit. Whichever you feel most comfortable with, make sure you choose the option that works best for you.

Food

When it comes to food, Cincinnati has some of the best foodie places to eat. Whether you’re looking for some southern fried food, good ole fashion BBQ, or something simple for your taste buds, there are plenty of options to choose from. No matter if you’re looking for a bite to eat with family or friends, the following places are your high hitters for fantastic NOMS around the city. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!


*Note: A lot of these places are great for both Lunch & Dinner. But fair warning, on the weekends these places start to get busy around 5pm, so make sure if you’re hungry you plan ahead, as wait times could leave you hanging around for 45 mins – 1 hour if you’re not careful. Great weather brings out the foodies in all of us!

One of my favorite things to do when checking out a new city is to check out the breakfast scene. You never know what you’ll find or who might have the best foods. If breakfast foods and BRUNCH are one of your favorite meals, make sure to check out these places as well for some unforgettable moments.

One last piece of advice would be to make sure to check out all the locations for where these places are located. Most of them have other locations around the area, so you don’t have to go all the way downtown for some great food. Keep your options open and the city will surprise you!

Things to Do
One of the major things I found that was nice about Cincinnati is that most everything is family friendly. Except for the Music Festivals listed below, the city is very family oriented and makes sure there are plenty of things to keep the kiddos busy. Whether you’re looking to check out the Cincinnati Red’s or go to a Bengals game, the border between Ohio and Kentucky has a lot too offer.

If you’re looking to explore the downtown area, one really cool place I would recommend checking out would be Smale Riverfront Park. It’s a small amusement world of its own that lines the edge of the Ohio River. The park itself has two levels and spans the distance between the Paul Brown Stadium and the Great American Ball Park stadium. It has a Riverwalk view, Rosenburg Swings (adult size swings that fit 2-3 people), a water play area for kids, an adventure playground, and a few other really unique and creative areas. As you walk through the park, you’ll stumble across a carousel and Ferris Wheel meant for people of all ages. The cost is reasonable to participate and worth the excitement that it brings.

Amusement theme parks are also a popular trend in America. If you’ve ever been to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania (make sure you check out the Pennsylvania link!), Kings Island Amusement & Waterpark is also another fun place for the family! It’s located in Mason, Ohio which is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Cincinnati. The tickets are mildly reasonable per person and parking is decently cheap. In the summer the park does get busy, so be prepared to spend the entire day having a blast perusing through both sides of the park.

Night Life

If there’s one thing that I LOVED most about Cincinnati, it was the variety in its night life scene. When looking for a night out on the town Over-The-Rhine was a popular spot for folks of all ages. Depending on your interests with grabbing drinks with friends, you could either play endless video games at 16 Bit Bar Arcade, enjoy a relaxing and chill vibe at Taft Ale House and Queen City radio, or dance your socks off at Jefferson Social over at The Banks. No matter where you choose to go the city beautifully comes to life!

Another item to consider when exploring the city night life are the brewery’s that are nearby. While there are several around the area, the two that are the best are MadTree Brewery and Rhinegeist Brewery. MadTree Brewery is located in Oakley, while Rhinegiest Brewery is located right in the city and provides the option of a rooftop bar. One amazing component of MadTree Brewery’s outside patio is the luxury to meet new people while celebrating it with the friendly faces of man’s best friend. You can never go wrong with a dog friendly atmosphere. In a world all of its own, craft beer, seems to be a talent that the city has successfully cultivated.

Columbus

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Photo Credit: David Mark from Pixabay

Compared to Cincinnati, Columbus is a bit more relaxed than its sister’s city. The downtown area of Columbus is smaller and does not have the same pace of fast living as Cincinnati. While the downtown area stays busy and offers a variety of jobs for the locals, the city itself does not have a big city life like Cincinnati. Unless you’re staying in downtown Columbus, there might be more driving involved if traveling around the area. Consider the rule of thumb that anywhere you drive it should take you about 15-20 minutes to get there.

Another thing that’s easily recognizable about Columbus is that there’s more country out that way than being in a big city. Even though it’s the midway point between Cincinnati and Cleveland, there are a lot of amenities in Columbus which are also found in the other areas of the state. Similar to Cincinnati, there are a lot of local festivals and popup events that happen around the area throughout the year. One great way to stay on top of the events and festivals around the city would be to check out the city’s website – https://www.experiencecolumbus.com/events/. This will help you when you’re planning your day or weekend timeline!

Transportation

As mentioned before, cruising around downtown can be time consuming if you’re looking for a place to park your car. If you’re on the go as a pair of two or with some friends, it’s still easier and more convenient to take an Uber almost anywhere you need to go downtown. However, if you’re brave enough to drive and feel more comfortable parking downtown (completely safe to do so) there are plenty of parking garages and areas around to choose from. Surprisingly, there’s also a lot of street parking in the city which always seems to be easy to find. There are other options around the city to pay and park for timed events or with a car permit. Whichever you feel most comfortable with, make sure you choose the option that works best for you.

Food

Much like Cincinnati, Columbus is a foodie city with a wide variety of options to choose from. While The Eagle and Bakersfield are both native to Cincinnati, there are dining locations in Columbus located in the Short North area to relive the experience. Condado’s Tacos is a gem that’s located at Easton Town Center, which also offers a laundry list worth of shopping in addition to some good noms. There’s such a diversity of food in the area that it really makes it hard to choose between them all!

Columbus really isn’t fully explored unless you check out some of the Brunch and Breakfast places it offers. If you didn’t know, Bob Evans is local to the state of Ohio. It first originated out of a small diner in Gallipolis, Ohio. Today its headquarters are in New Albany, Ohio right outside of Columbus. No matter where you are throughout the state, you’re sure to find a Bob Evans Restaurant around every corner.

As you can see the food list for Columbus is very comparable to Cincinnati’s. You can never go wrong with trying different types of food. Some of the restaurants have other locations around the area, so make sure you check out all of the dining locations around the area. This will keep you from having to go too far for some great food.

Things to Do

When it comes to exploring the area, Columbus has its own unique flare for festivities. The Scioto Mile and Cultural Arts Center downtown offer a lot in terms of free gallery exhibits, lectures and special events. Open to the public, there are a lot of opportunities for visitors to take classes to help cultivate new skills or refresh existing ones in the visual and performance arts. On the banks of the Scioto River, The Promenade connects Battelle Riverfront Park and Bicentennial Park along Civic Center Drive. The area features a stone colonnade with shaded Rosenburg swings, park benches, beautiful gardens and tables designed for card games, chess, and other similar games. Throughout the summer a lot of the festivals and events are held along here next to the Scioto River.

Out of all of the festivals that travel through Columbus, there are two in particular that have left their mark and I find are worth going back to year after year. Columbus is known for it’s welcoming and active LGBTQ community, which makes the annual Stonewall Columbus Pride worth attending. As one of the better Pride’s I’ve personally attended, volunteering has been a personal joy for me to be around and connect with so many diverse and energetic individuals. Between the parade, live music, 5k run, food and fun there’s a lot of effort that goes into putting the events together. Stonewall Columbus Pride is an experience that’s very suitable for family and friends to attend.

The other festival that I really enjoyed was the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio. Wow, talk about enjoying an Irish experience! This festival left me feeling like it was a possibility that leprechauns existed! There’s so much food, beer, and fun to be had at this event. From the live music, games, Irish and Celtic Dancers, to the display of bag pipes and drums, everyone is sure to have a good time. It’s a memorable experience for everyone, no matter what background you come from!

Night Life

The night life in Columbus is very diverse and does cater to a younger crowd. There are three major parts around the city that are popular and worth checking out for some fun. The Short North area is located in the northern part of Columbus around the arts district. The majority of the local college kids from Ohio State University frequent this area on the weekends. While there’s quite a bit to do and see if you’re local in the area, make sure you’re careful when driving, as the availability of parking spaces can be limited. It might be easier to use an Uber when drifting through this district. If you’re comfortable with a younger crowd, then this area is for you.

The Brewery District is located just south of the central business district near German Village. This area of Columbus is an older and fluent part of the city that caters to several local breweries. If you have time and are look for something new to try, check out the breweries in this district to enhance your personal experience with craft beer. Similar to Cincinnati, you just can’t go wrong with this choice, and Ohio seems to know what it’s doing with its beer.

In the Arena District you are sure to experience the vibrant fast paced part of the downtown area. It is a large walkable neighborhood. Once you are here, you can easily get to event venues, office buildings, and restaurants from multiple covered parking garages nearby. It’s easy to attend a Columbus Blue Jackets game and hangout around after the game to get a feel for the city’s vibe. There’s a mixed age group that frequents with district so you’re sure to experience a variety of excitement.

Cleveland

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Photo Credit: Davel5957 from iStock

If you’ve never been to Cleveland it reminds me a lot of being in Pennsylvania (must be a sign to check out that state link!) because of the local steel mills nearby. If you didn’t know, Pennsylvania has a few steel mills and was a popular trend around the Pittsburgh area. While it’s not too far from the Western Pennsylvania border, the hustle and bustle of Cleveland revolves around the beautiful view of Lake Erie and the local steel mills downtown. There are quite a few things to see and do while in the city, which will keep you and your family on your toes.

While it’s not really a place I would recommend you freely go visit, unless you’re missing a limb, the area is widely known for the Cleveland Clinic. It is one of the most sought-after nursing schools in the country with 5,895 patient beds available system wide. This land mark for the city continues to be a remarkable and inspirational asset to the world of medicine. I personally think it deserves all the recognition it receives in addition to its quality of patient care.

Cleveland is similar to Cincinnati in that there’s more of a city life and vibrancy to it. Less like Columbus there’s not a lot of country around the area. One thing I noticed when driving around this state was that the scenery between all the major cities is more farmland and country. This made it a perfect opportunity to rock out and jam to my favorite songs!

Transportation

As mentioned before, cruising around downtown can be time consuming if you’re looking for a place to park your car. If you’re on the go as a pair of two or with some friends, it’s still easier and more convenient to take an Uber almost anywhere you need to go downtown. However, if you’re brave enough to drive and feel more comfortable parking downtown (being mindful of the area as it could change quickly) there are plenty of parking garages and areas around to choose from. There are other options around the city to pay and park for timed events or with a car permit. I did not find that Cleveland offered as much street parking as Columbus did around the city. This might be more to do with the fact that it has a vibrant downtown city life in comparison. Whichever you feel most comfortable with, make sure you choose the option that works best for you.

Food

When it comes to food in Cleveland, I’m not sure where to begin. There are so many GOOD options that it really just depends on what you’re in the mood for at the given moment.  The Flying Fig was really a fantastic place to eat and had a really warm and friendly atmosphere. One of the things that I think made this place so cool to eat at was due largely to the fact that the restaurant’s meals are locally sourced from farms and organizations within the area. It’s a fantastic way to give back to the community while building some roots of their own!

Before exploring Cleveland, I reveled in the foodie places Cincinnati offered for brunch. It was the best next morning adventure after a night out on the town with friends. While all the places listed below were really good, Fat Cats was truly comparable to my high-ranking brunch places.

I’ve always personally liked the Farmer’s Market/Café Market style locale when it comes to checking out unique food places. The West Side Market Café is no different. When I first heard about this restaurant, I was told that it was a Cleveland tradition amongst the locals. Although slightly skeptical of the rave reviews, I attempted to give this place a try. Even though there’s limited seating in the small but cheerful place, it’s worth the ambience and price for the meals. If you’re looking to go as a group or family, make sure you get there early. This place fills up fast!

Things to Do

Compared to other places I’ve been Cleveland is actually a pretty cool place. The city has really put in the effort and money to revitalize downtown, along with having a beautiful lakefront park, and a food and drink scene that has been receiving an increasing amount of national recognition. Cleveland really has a unique persona about it that differs from its sister cities. Independent and sustainable, Cleveland is the city that paves its own way.

Playhouse Square was is such a MUST for visiting Cleveland. Outside of New York city, it is one of the largest performance art theaters in the United States. While I’ve only ever been to one show here, it was worth the price for the tickets and the memorable experience. Playhouse Square fully restored five of its oldest theaters and has been one of the largest theater restoration projects in the world. If you’ve never been to a theater before, or even if you have, this place will have you and your family falling in love with the arts.

Night Life

In the few times I visited Cleveland, I mostly frequented the area down town called The Flats. It is an area that was redeveloped on the banks of the Cuyahoga River, where the city’s nightlife, bar and clubs with live music, comedy and drag shows were held. The party vibe in this area catered to folks of all ages. This area has a popular walkway that lines the edge of the Cuyahoga River, which gives way to a beautiful view of the waterfront. There are local water taxis that take people from one side of the river to the other.

If there’s one top place I’d recommend for you to check out while you’re in The Flats, it would be to check out Punch Bowl Social. Man, was that a good time! This bar has multiple levels that cater to a sports bar, mini bowling alley, roof top bar, and several other creative features. It’s definitely a place you could spend an entire evening exploring and meeting new people. Another thing that was really cool about this place was that there were a lot of folks from Cincinnati and Columbus who ended up making the drive to check this place out. Punch Bowl Social is a franchise that’s being built all over in some of the major cities all over the country. So, if you’re in Cleveland make sure you stop by for a night of fun!

About the Author:

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Hi, Everyone! My name is Heather Hansen and it’s nice to meet you! I’m an East Coast girl by heart and grew up mostly in North Carolina & Pennsylvania. I lived in Ohio for three years, both in the Cincinnati & Columbus area. The Midwest kindly surprised me in many ways (especially the kindness of many people), and sometimes I find myself wishing the East Coast had as much excitement as I found while I was there. I hope the article was enlightening for you and that you now have several takeaways as to why you should go check out Ohio sometime! I promise you won’t be disappointed. The blog I write mostly surrounds poems, short stories, and health & wellness related topics. I love looking at all of life’s little moments and finding ways to write about them. It’s all apart of the human experience, so we might as well enjoy the ride! Feel free to check out my blog at – www.mysticspiritwalker.com

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Heather what an amazing list you have made for everyone! When I visit I will be printing this off and taking it with me! Thank you so much!

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The Very Best of New Jersey

 

The Very Best of New Jersey

Yes, you read that title correct.  This post is all about the very best of New Jersey.  I know many of you will scoff at that. New Jersey has long been the butt of jokes in this country.  Those yahoos on “Jersey Shore” didn’t help matters. I’m here to tell you that New Jersey is more than loud Italtians in wife beaters and big hair.

I have lived in New Jersey all of my life. I grew up in the shadow of the capitol, Trenton and currently live near the Pine Barrens. I love my state and really wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  But, I’m aware that New Jersey isn’t your first thought when planning a vacation.

I get it, really. All you ever hear about are the bad parts of this state.  But, New Jersey has so much to offer. Let me show you.

  • The Shore

The Shore. The Beach. Whatever you call it, New Jersey has 141 miles of it.  I’m going to tell you my favorite beach in the state. But, first, there are some things you need to know when visiting the Shore.

  1. Most towns require you to purchase a beach tag to use their beaches. These range in price, but usually are around $5-$10/day per adult. Children are usually free, but I advise you to check before you go.  The tags can be purchased at the entrance to the beach or on the boardwalk. If you are caught without a tag, there is a fine of a few hundred dollars. So, just get a beach tag. It helps keep our beaches clean. Beach tags are not needed in the off season (before Memorial Day or after Labor Day).
  2. Parking is hard to find.  If you are going for the day, you will either have to hunt for a metered parking spot or pay a premium to park in a lot.  If I know I’m going to be there for more than a couple hours, I will splurge for the parking lot. FYI, off season (before Memorial Day or after Labor Day) you can usually find free street parking.
  3. The seagulls are quite aggressive and will steal food from your hands.  You’ve been warned.

Ocean City is my absolute favorite beach town.  It is perfect for families with small children. There is a large Boardwalk with rides, mini golf, and arcades. There are lots of great restaurants.  The beach is beautiful and clean, and beach tags aren’t too expensive.

One caveat, Ocean City is a dry town.  You can not purchase alcohol anywhere in town. But, don’t worry there are liquor stores strategically located on either end of the island, just over the town line. However, because it is a dry town, you don’t have the loud, obnoxious tourists like you do in other beach towns. Ocean City is not a party town.  It is a family destination.

So, grab some Jilly Fries, a Kohr’s ice cream cone, and settle down for a relaxing day at the beach.

  • Amusement Parks

For a small state, NJ has a lot of great Amusement Parks.  Not only does every boardwalk have rides and attractions, but we also have theme parks for every age group.

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By Storybook Land – Storybookland.com, FAL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14772243

Storybook Land is the best place to take toddlers and preschoolers for a day of fun. The park is celebrating its 60th year and it easy to see why it has been in business for so long.  The park is clean and never too crowded (except during holidays and special events). There is plenty of shade and cool down areas.  And, the theming is charming and nostalgic. The park looks very much like it did when it opened back 60 years ago.

I’ve been taking my son here since he was a little over a year old. Even at that young age, he could go on just about every ride.  There aren’t any big rollercoasters or thrill rides here. The scariest ride they have is the little caterpillar kiddie coaster. Everything else is perfect for the littlest rider.  

Parking is free and you can bring your own food and drinks if you don’t want to eat the park food.  Like all amusement parks in NJ, they are open from Spring to Fall, though hours are limited to weekends during non-summer months.

If you have a truck lover between the ages for 3 and 10, Diggerland USA is a must.  My 4yo and I visited fort he first time recently and he loved it. I’m glad I got a membership because we are going to be there a lot.

Diggerland USA has a very simple theme, trucks.  Construction trucks to be exact. And, lots of them.  Every ride features some sort of truck or moving vehicle. There are trucks that you child can drive (they may have to sit in your lap to do it, but it doesn’t hinder the fun).  There are trucks they can dig with (diggers, duh). They even have a truck themed carousel.

We spent 4 hours there and my son was planning his next visit before we even left the parking lot.  Confession, this place is really just for the truck lovers. It is definitely not someplace I would choose to go if I didn’t have a little boy.

Parking is free, but you can’t bring outside food into the park.  There also is no shade anywhere in this park. And, since most of the rides require kids under 48” to be lap riders, single parents of multiple children will want to bring a friend or family member to help out.

The king of the theme parks in NJ is Great Adventure. Perfect for older kids, teens, and adults, GA (as we locals call it.  Or maybe is was just my friends) has lots of thrills and entertainment. Not only does Six Flags have some of the best rides in the world, it also features a Safari and water park.

I must confess that I have not been to Great Adventure in years. I’m not a fan of big coasters and thrill rides in general.  Plus, my son really isn’t old enough for those types of rides, yet. However, I spent a lot of time in this park as a kid and I know a lot of people who still love it.  It needs to be on the list of anyone who loves amusement parks.

Park is not free and cost about $25 at the time this post was written. Food is available throughout the park but you may not bring in outside food.

Great Adventure is a little like Disney, you want to do some research before you visit so you can get the most out of your day.

These are just a few things that New Jersey has to offer.  For more info, check out VisitNJ.

About the Author:

Pamela Thompson
I am a Stay-at-home Boymom and blogger at Mommyneedscookies.com. I love to share activities, crafts, recipes, reviews, as well as, my personal experiences as a mom.
You can find me at
Mommyneedscookies.com
Twitter.com/MomNeedsCookies

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Pamela thank you for sharing New Jersey with us! I really want to visit The Shore sometime and Six Flags! I bet my two nephews would love that Diggerland! Super excited to share it with my sister!

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