Sunday, December 11, 2016

Top 10 OHventures of 2016


While many people will look back on 2016 as being one they wish the could forget (all of the celebrity deaths, the contentious and controversial Presidential race, the national and international catastrophes), it's more important than ever to try to find the light within the darkness! We had a great deal of excitement (both good and bad) happening at OHventures, that we didn't even get to post as much as we typically do. But, it's not the amount of times we post that counts, it's the quality of the posts - and this year, we have a lot of high quality adventures to look back on.

As with every year (see 20122013, 2014, and 2015), I give to you the Top 10 OHventures of 2016. There were many to choose from, but if you needed to see the best of the best, here they are (in no particular order)!

Use this list to start planning some awesome bucket list items to do in 2017.

1. BrewBoat ClevelandPart bike, part boat, and part bar, the BrewBoat in Cleveland is a one-of-a-kind experience that will guarantee to be a hit for you and your adventure-and-beer-loving friends.When trying to find a perfect birthday gift for some family members who "have it all," I decided to get creative and book a reservation aboard the BrewBoat! Follow us on the adventure on the Cuyahoga River.

2. Escape Room DowntownWhile I am usually posting about adventures that exercise the body, escape rooms exercise the mind. They bring people together to use their brains to accomplish the goal under the given time limit, which is a huge adrenaline rush! Join us as we head to the Escape Room Downtown in Canton to tackle "The Missing Detective's Office"!

3. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad: ALL ABOARD! The CVSR can be found in Northeast Ohio, running through the heart of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (the one and only national park in the state of Ohio). The main portion of the railway runs northbound from Akron in Summit County, all the way to Independence in Cuyahoga County.

4. Red Maple InnThis summer, I was invited to stay at the Red Maple Inn, a beautiful boutique hotel located in the small town of Burton in the heart of Geauga County's Amish Country. With unbeatable views of lush green fields, a selection of spacious rooms, and hearty Amish-style breakfast buffets, the offer to stay was impossible to pass up.

5. HalloWeekends at Cedar PointFor the past 20 years, Cedar Point has been hosting HalloWeekends, on the weekends that fall between Labor Day and Halloween. The entire 365-acre park transforms into a spookier, scarier, and more thrilling experience for guests, with pumpkins and cobwebs decorating the queue lines, and ghosts, goblins, and ghouls roaming the midway. For the first time EVER, I finally went to HalloWeekends!

Photos by OHventures

6. SegAway Tours of ColumbusSegAway Tours of Columbus offers a series of tours for anyone interested in uncovering hidden secrets about the city while leisurely gliding through the parkways, riversides, and sidewalks of downtown, Arena District, Short North, and Victorian Village. It was a challenging experience, but one I will never forget. I am hooked on Segways!

7. Findlay Market CincinnatiEven on a Sunday afternoon, the Findlay Market located in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is booming with activity. As Ohio's oldest public market (having been established in 1852), the Market shows no signs of slowing down. With the brightly colored Italian-style architecture, you'll immediately feel in a cheerful mood, ready to explore the Market head on! 

8. Spartan Race OhioThe Spartan Race was one of the greatest challenges I have ever embarked on, and one that was unforgettable and incredibly fulfilling for the adventurous spirit within me. On May 8, OHventures traveled to Cumberland with our friends Matt & Anthony to tackle all of the mud, obstacles, and burpees that make up the grueling course.

9. Winans Chocolates + CoffeesTwo things that most everyone can agree on is delicious chocolate and quality coffee. Winans Chocolates + Coffees, based in Piqua in Miami County, has got you covered! I had the pleasure of receiving some Winans products to review, and it wasn't long until all of my chocolate and treats were gobbled up, and all of my coffee was gulped up! I also got to visit the Winans to Winans Half Marathon in September!

10. RNC in CLE: This year marked an historic time for the City of Cleveland. The Republican National Convention (RNC) was held in town for the first time since the 1930s, bringing in thousands and thousands of visitors from across the country and the globe. No matter your politics, you can enjoy some of the photos that we were able to take during this week in July.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Happy Holidays From OHventures


Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to all of my readers of OHventures! Thank you so much for your continued support in my quest to show everyone just how cool Ohio can be! May the next year bring you an endless thirst for adventure! See you in 2017!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Northeast Ohio WaterFALL Hikes

Chagrin Falls - Photos by OHventures

The roar of rushing water echoing throughout the wilderness is a welcoming sound when hiking through Ohio’s parks and trails. Whether manmade or created by Mother Nature herself, waterfalls provide an element of excitement and wonder to any outdoor adventure. Add to that the changing colors of autumn’s leaves, and you are bound to take your scenic adventures to an entirely different level.

Growing up in Northeast Ohio, my friends and I loved to explore the woods throughout the year, but nothing would compare to the times when we’d hike in autumn. In our expeditions, we sought out many notable waterfalls, which have become some of my favorite landmarks. Here are some of my top picks for Northeast Ohio waterfall hikes:


Chagrin Waterfalls – Chagrin Falls, Cuyahoga County
The waterfalls in the quaint city of Chagrin Falls can be easily found, and they don’t require any hiking boots or gear! These impressive 20-foot high falls are located right in the heart of town square, and can be accessed via a series of staircases. I always take a pit stop to see the Chagrin Falls after having dinner or shopping at the many establishments lining Main Street. The leaves turn golden yellow and fire red during autumn, which provides a beautiful frame for the cascading waters. Just hurry and catch them before they freeze for the winter!

Gorge Metro Park – Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County
The Gorge Trails at the Gorge Metro Park in Cuyahoga Falls are full of remarkable rock formations along some slightly rugged terrain. A boardwalk and wooden staircase were recently installed to make the hike less advanced. The unmistakable sound of crashing water can be heard while on the majority of the 1.8-mile path. The falls you see are primarily due to a manmade dam, but you can also spot some natural cascades, known as the Big Falls (pictured above). You can take a detour out of the woods and spot the Little Falls, located in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. These waterfalls is how the city received its name.

Cascade Falls – Nelson Township, Portage County
As a teenager, my friends and I often visited Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park, located along U.S. Route 422 in Portage County. The rocky cliffs proved to be a challenging endeavor, and the nearby quarry gave us a place to cool off in the summer. When the leaves changed, color, we would still head to the park, but stick to hiking. We’d explore the exciting rock formations, like Devil’s Icebox and Indian Pass, and we’d always uncover the gorgeous Cascade Falls. Surrounded by mossy rocks and russet leaves, the 50-foot tall Cascade Falls is a slender, less robust waterfall than the others on the list, but is striking nonetheless.


Brandywine Falls – Northfield, Summit County
By and large, the most picturesque and the most breathtaking of all of the waterfalls I have visited in Northeast Ohio is Brandywine Falls (pictured above). Located in northern Summit County (in between Akron and Cleveland), Brandywine Falls are approximately 65-feet tall, with rushing waters encapsulated by bright orange leaves in the autumn. When frost and ice form, the flow of the water changes as well, making for an interesting sight to see. These falls are a very popular spot for photo shoots, be it for a wedding, engagement, or just because (which is exactly what I did with my dog this fall). There is a small 1.5 mile hiking trail that leads to the falls, as well as a wooden observation deck, which is always bustling with visitors.


Lanterman’s Falls – Youngstown, Mahoning County
As a student, we took countless field trips to Mill Creek Park in Youngstown, where we could go see Lanterman’s Mill and its accompanying waterfalls! Our teachers would take us here so we could learn how the water from the creek is used to power the gristmill to grind grain. We would always tour the mill and take home some grain products that were made on site! The waterfall next to Lanterman’s Mill is only about 15 feet tall, but it works in conjunction with the mill and a nearby covered bridge to create a beautiful backdrop.

There are countless other waterfalls in Northeast Ohio (and the state as a whole) to check out in the fall (or any time of the year). Some other good ones to check out are Buttermilk Falls in Brecksville, Cuyahoga County, and Paine Falls in Painesville, in Lake County.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

HalloWeekends at Cedar Point

Photos by OHventures

Amusement park enthusiasts from around the world flock every year to Cedar Point, located in Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio. We are lucky to have one of the best amusement parks on the planet right on the Lake Erie coastline. With more rides than any other park on earth (71), and the second most roller coasters (16), Cedar Point has been breaking records and drawing in millions for decades.

 

For the past 20 years, Cedar Point has been hosting HalloWeekends, on the weekends that fall between Labor Day and Halloween. The entire 365-acre park transforms into a spookier, scarier, and more thrilling experience for guests, with pumpkins and cobwebs decorating the queue lines, and ghosts, goblins, and ghouls roaming the midway.


This past weekend, I experienced HalloWeekends for the very first time. I had been to Cedar Point many times since my youth, but never during HalloWeekends. During this time, the park is only open Friday through Saturday, and with limited hours. After spending a Sunday in the park in late September, I have to say it was one of the best visits I have ever had to Cedar Point!

This is mainly because the crowds are significantly smaller than during the summer months. I do, however, hear that Saturdays during HalloWeekends can bring in very large numbers of park goers (especially in late October). So, if you plan to go, make it on a Sunday! We arrived just before noon (the park opened at 11AM) and left around 7 PM (the park closed at 8 PM).

Dead Ride Cemetery

The park was truly transformed, with special Halloween touches everywhere you looked. I loved the attention to detail: skulls, bats, and skeletons strategically placed throughout the park. I particularly enjoyed the specially created displays, such as the "Dead Ride Cemetery," featuring "tombstones" of former coasters and attractions that are now defunct and have since been torn down. Pictured above, you can see part of the cemetery (which is found in the Midway near the Raptor roller coaster), including the grave site of the Mean Streak, the giant wooden coaster that is being torn down this year.

Further down the Midway is a giant jack-lantern to walk through (perfect for a photo op), a giant mechanical ogre, and the "Cemetery of Dead Rockers." This area is found near the Corkscrew roller coaster (pictured below), and features headstones of rock-and-roll legends who are no longer with us: Rick James, John Lennon, Elvis, and even Amy Winehouse.


Even further down the Midway is the Great Pumpkin Spectacular, where you can find 10,000 hand-carved jack-o-lanterns lining the walkways. They are true works of art, and look even cooler at nighttime, all lit up. This is a new addition to HalloWeekends this year, and can be found near the Top Thrill Dragster and the Power Tower

This entire stretch of the Midway is where you can witness the Great Pumpkin Parade at 4 PM each day. And if you have kids, there are a ton of places nearby that can offer age-appropriate Halloween fun (like trick-or-treat zones and Peanuts characters dressed in a not-so-spooky manner). 


We, of course were not there with children in tow. This meant that not only could we hit up all of the haunted houses we wanted, but we could also indulge in some adult beverages. Do yourself a favor and try the craft beers especially made for Cedar Point. This includes the RougaBrew and the Valravn Red Stout, both named after newer rides at the park, and both available for a very limited time. You can try them at the Trail Tavern near Millennium Force roller coaster (yes, the one that is over 300 feet tall). 

Enjoying a RougaBrew at Trail Tavern

Another great spot for some cold ones is Chickie's & Pete's, found near the entrance and right next to the Blue Streak roller coaster. A word of caution, however: plan to ride the more intense rides before you eat heavy foods and guzzle on some beer. We did things a bit backwards, eating some famous crab fries (seasoned to perfection) at Chickie's & Pete's, then riding the aforementioned Blue Streak - the oldest (1964) and most rickety roller coaster in the park (hey - it had no line, so we had to try it).


Now it was time for the scary stuff. There are so many haunted houses in the park, but we could only make it to a couple (no thanks to the long line we waited in to ride the Maverick roller coaster). The two we were able to experience were: the Eden Musee (a wax museum themed haunted house full of surprises), and Hexed (a witch themed haunted house with a ton of great scares).

 

While we really did want to try some of the other featured haunted houses (like the Zombie High School and the haunted hospital aptly called Eternity Infirmary), the real scary thing would be if we didn't get to ride some of the newest roller coasters at the park. This includes Rougarou (a floorless coaster, formerly known as Mantis when it was a stand-up roller coaster...it's complicated). Being that this is named after a werewolf creature from French folklore, we felt it was appropriate to ride on HalloWeekends.



It would also be a sin if we skipped GateKeeper, a wing roller coaster with the largest inversion on earth (built in 2013) and frightening keyhole elements. And, most of all we HAD to ride Valravn, the longest, fastest, and tallest dive roller coaster in the world, which was just installed at the beginning of the 2016 season. Aside from Maverick, this was the longest line we stood in (and even so, it was only a half an hour), but it was definitely worth the wait.


Overall, the trip to Cedar Point for HalloWeekends was nothing short of perfect. The crisp fall weather was gorgeous - not too hot, and not too cold. And, the lines for most rides were 15 minutes or less (even the GateKeeper was only about 10 minutes). You still have time to check out HalloWeekends in 2016!

Monday, September 26, 2016

BrewBoat Cleveland Photo Blog

Who: You and a party of up to 14 friends!
What: Part bike, part boat, and part bar: The BrewBoat Cleveland
When: May-October
Where: On the Cuyahoga River through the Cleveland Flats
Why: To enjoy some drinks with friends in a totally unique way!
How: Book a cruise before the time slots fill up!

Photos by OHventures








Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pedal & Party With BrewBoat Cleveland

Photos by OHventures

Part bike, part boat, and part bar, the BrewBoat in Cleveland is a one-of-a-kind experience that will guarantee to be a hit for you and your adventure-and-beer-loving friends.When trying to find a perfect birthday gift for some family members who "have it all," I decided to get creative and book a reservation aboard the BrewBoat!


This is Ohio's first and only pedal-powered paddle-wheel party boat, which launched Memorial Day weekend of this year. The boat is 31-feet long with 10 seats for pedalers and four additional seats for passengers who opt to not pedal (we took turns, so no one felt left out). Yes, the boat is human-powered, which means you get a bit of a workout mixed in while you drink. It's like the Pedal Wagons of Columbus and Cincinnati, but on water instead of on the streets!


I reserved 10 seats for our 2-hour cruise this August (the other 4 were already booked, so we would be on board with a few new friends). Each ticket was $35 plus tax, and the trip required you to BYOB. When you arrive at the launch site, located on Whiskey Island in the heart of Cleveland, you are able to purchase cold brews at the convenience store found at the dock.

Most of us brought our own favorite beers from home (each person is permitted to bring no more than 36 oz. or beer, or 18 oz. of wine for themselves). There are convenience coolers of ice located right in the middle of the bar, so you can keep your drinks chilled and readily available during your excursion (no need to bring your own coolers).


Our group consisted of myself, my brother and his wife, my parents, my aunt, and my friends Zac, Kyla, Ben, and Emily. As mentioned, we were joined by 4 other folks who booked at the same time as us. Also on board was the Captain (Katie), and a driver, both of whom were extremely fun and personable. 


We disembarked from the marina at 5 PM and pedaled down the Cuyagoga River. As we pedaled, we were able to gawk at the gorgeous Cleveland skyline against the bright blue skies, and take in the sights of the revitalized riverfronts of the Cleveland Flats. We floated by notable hot spots, such as the Nautica Pavilion, the Music Box Supper Club, Alley Cat Oyster Bar, and more. We shared the waterway with kayakers, jet skiiers, paddle boarders,, and other seafaring folks out enjoying the fantastic weather and exciting scenery. There was so much to see and to soak in on our cruise!


At one point, the driver challenged us to try and work together to pedal as fast as we could in order to beat the record speed. After pedaling and pedaling, we ultimately did not come close to setting a new record, but we had a blast trying! It was also a blast plugging our iPods in and choosing the music we listened to along the way. It was a nice added feature. One downside, however, is that there is no bathroom on board the boat (which doesn't take long to figure out). So, it is a good thing that the ride is not much longer than 2 hours, and that we had a cap on how many drinks we could bring with us. 


Food is also allowed on board (anything from snacks to pizzas to cold cuts!), however, we were planning to eat dinner at one of the restaurants in the Flats after the ride, so we did not have any food on board with us.


All in all, our experience on the BrewBoat CLE was extremely positive. We are glad to have had the chance to book a ride, since slots fill up fast! The season ends on October 1, but they are already taking reservations for 2017. Captain Katie told me that while they currently have just one boat, it is their hope to soon have more boats in order to meet the demands of the public. Until then, make sure to make a reservation far in advance to ensure you get the time you want. The BrewBoat is perfect for bachelor or bachelorette parties, birthday celebrations (like ours), or just an excuse to get together and enjoy the beauty of the Cuyahoga River and downtown Cleveland in a fresh, new way!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Lake Milton State Park

Photos by OHventures

Lake Milton State Park
16801 Mahoning Avenue
Lake Milton, OH 44429
(330) 654-4989

I've driven both eastbound and westbound on I-76 countless times over the past 15 years, always gazing at the beautiful crystal clear waters of Lake Milton, on the edge of Mahoning and Portage Counties. There is rarely a time I drive by in the spring or summer that the lake is not peppered with dozens - if not, hundreds - of outdoor enthusiasts


Most of the people I see at Lake Milton State Park are actually ON the water. The lake (truly, a reservoir, impounded by a dam in 1913), is the clear centerpiece of the park, sizing up at 1,685 acres. Unlimited horsepower is permitted on the lake, so it is not uncommon to see motorboats whizzing by, toting water skiers, wake boarders, and the like. 

Fishing is also a favorite at Lake Milton, with a large variety of fish found in the waters: walleye, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, channel catfish, smallmouth bass, brown bullhead, yellow perch, white bass and muskellung.


Since I decided to stop on a whim one blazing hot August day without a boat or fishing gear, I opted to enjoy the shores of Lake Milton. With my dog in tote (always a plus when a park is dog friendly), we walked along the edge of the water, interacting with other dogs, and soaking in the scenery (I particularly like the small black and white lighthouse found at one of the picnic areas). There is a designated swimming area (where dogs are NOT allowed), but alas I didn't have a swimsuit. The best I could do is dip my feet in (next time, I will come prepared).

There are plenty of picnic tables, pavilions, and a gazebo that can be used for parties or just for sitting and relaxing (learn about making shelter reservations here).


There's a 1.25 mile easy nature trail located by the park office (at the address listed above). Additionally, you can hunt in designated areas, or enjoy the basketball and volleyball courts. In the winter, ice fishing, snow mobiling, and cross country skiing are popular. 

Looks like a new trip to Lake Milton State Park will certainly be in my future very soon.





Warrior Dash Ohio II 2016 Photo Blog

Who: You and 10,000 fellow runners
What: The craziest frickin' day of your life (AKA Warrior Dash Ohio II 2016)
When: Various dates across the country. These pictures are from August 21, 2016.
Where: North Lawrence, Ohio.
Why: To challenge yourself physically and mentally to run through crazy obstacles and get dirty!
How: Visit the official Web site to find out more!

Photos by OHventures and Gameface Media


Are you ready for the battleground?!

All smiles after jumping the fire - it's one of the best parts of Warrior Dash!

Enjoying our complimentary beers (and buying a few more) to reward ourselves for a job well done!


Wearing our red viking hats (every warrior gets one in their race packet), and showing off our matching tattoos! That's (from l-r) me, my dad, and my brother. We have my other brother's initials NME on our backs.

My 13-year-old niece braving the slippery balance beam.

My dad showing off his skills at the fire jump.
The look on my face says it all: this obstacle proved to be nearly impossible due to the slippery rings!

My warrior father taking on the ropes obstacle!

My brother impressed us all by successfully making it across the slippery rings.



Okay, I lied: THIS was the most fun of all the obstacles - the Goliath slides!

The famous Shock Top car!

The gals showing off their brute strength after dashing their way through the course!


Action shot of my mom sliding into the mud pit! Maybe not HER favorite.

Father-son bonding at the Warrior Dash!!

The balance beam was harder than it looks!!


Last one to the beer tent buys!


This was the worst of all the obstacles - really pretty scary. I don't want to talk about it! ;-)

Find your inner warrior!

Group shot BEFORE the mud...

...and AFTER the mud!