Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Trip To Ohio's Rubber City

Photos by OHventures

After recently moving to downtown Akron for a new job, I have settled in quite nicely, much in part due to the wide variety of things to do in the county seat of Summit County!
As the fifth largest city in the state, Akron has thoroughly impressed me with its exciting food offerings, wide variety of entertainment and nightlife, and its own unique and charming personality that make Akron a great place to visit on a day trip or weekend excursion!
What everyone needs most on any road trip is sustenance, and Akron definitely delivers! Probably the most iconic restaurant in town is Luigi's, an Italian joint known for its mouthwatering pizza and cheese-tastic salads! If you go here, be sure to bring cash, as Luigi's does not accept credit cards.
If you are looking for more variety, you can try the ultra-swanky yet ultra-affordable Crave restaurant! Your tastebuds will go on quite an adventure with dishes like the BLT (bacon/lettuce/fried green tomato) and smoked gouda macaroni & cheese with blackened chicken!
Other great dining options include: Bricco (an upscale small chain in the area), Cilantro (Asian food and sushi), and Urban Eats.
For great bar food and a wide selection of drinks for adult trips, be sure to go to Baxter's and the Lockview, both located on Main Street.
Once your belly is full, it's time to explore Akron's art and culture! The Akron Art Museum is a must-see. The building itself is quite a piece of art! Inside, you're bound to find exquisite regional, national and international exhibits! 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Polar Plunge Photo Blog

Who: Alone, with a friend, or with a group!
What: Polar Plunge (or Polar Bear Jump)
When: Various Dates in Winter (January - March)
Where: Multiple spots throughout Ohio
Why: To test your bravery and to raise money for a special cause!
How: Sign up on the official Polar Plunge website

Please do NOT attempt a polar plunge on your own. Organized events with the appropriate emergency personnel is the ONLY time you should "plunge" into freezing water.

Photographs by OHventures. 

Polar Plunge Recap

A polar plunge (also known as a polar bear jump) is for the bravest of brave and the craziest of crazy! In fact, I believe I have been called "crazy" more times for doing a polar plunge than for when I went skydiving!

Basically, all that this insane event consists of is jumping into an extremely cold body of water for a short amount of time and then hopping back out! It is a rite of passage for all adventurers, but sounds more like a result of one big game of "truth or dare" or perhaps an episode of Jackass. 

But, there are many positives to this frigid feat. Many of these events take place to raise money for the Special Olympics. There are several polar plunges on the calendar for 2014January 18 in CortlandJanuary 25 in Sandusky and WaynesvilleFebruary 8 in AthensFebruary 15 in ColumbusFebruary 22 in GenevaMarch 1 in Celina, and March 15 in Lakeview. Additionally, an annual Polar Bear Jump takes place in Portage Lakes on February 22 to benefit the Ronald McDonald House of Akron.

I recently participated in the Polar Plunge at Mosquito Lake State Park in Cortland, Trumbull County on January 18. I raised $100 for the event to benefit the Special Olympics of Ohio (many thanks to all who donated, including Patty B., Mike V., Steve F., Paul H., and Linda H.!), thus qualifying me to participate (the minimum needed to raise was $75). As always, it was great to be doing something for a good cause AND to cross something off of my Bucket List at the same time. 

In the days leading up to the event, I had no idea what to expect, and everything I imagined it would be involved a whole lot of horror! What if I lose a toe? What if I pass out from hypothermia? What if I get taken down by the Snow Queen from Disney's "Frozen"? WHAT IF I DIE?! So many what-ifs, but all of them were pretty extreme, to say the least.

When the morning of the event arrived, my fears began to slowly melt away (no pun intended). While it was a cris 15 degrees outside, the sun was out and it was not snowy or windy, so that was a major plus (you always have to look for the silver lining). I turned in my offline donations, got my official Polar Plunge t-shirt (long sleeve of course), and obtained my wristband required for jumping. 

I then prepared myself by sitting in the car with the heat turned up and changing into my garb. We were encouraged to dress in costume, so I kept mine really simple: I wore my red lifeguard shorts and large sunglasses - I was a Baywatch lifeguard, except this "beach" was an icy tundra rather than sandy paradise. There were a lot of people dressed as superheroes - Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonderwoman - as well sa cheeseheads, Waldo (of "Where's Waldo" fame), and other fun and creative costumes to distract us all from what craziness we were about to put ourselves through.

I wore aqua shoes - which is very important if you are thinking of doing a polar plunge - and had a spectator on standby with towels for me and my robe to change into. I had a fresh pair of winter socks and shoes with toe warmers waiting for me as well.

When it was time for the plunge, they had the oldest participant do the plunge first - with a paramedic escort. The woman was 83 years old! I was thoroughly impressed and seeing her walk out of the water like it was no big thing helped encourage me that I could do it too! There were roars of applause and soon enough it was time for the rest of us to take the plunge!

The event organizers literally carved an area of the lake out of the ice to make the plunge possible. It was not exactly a "plunge" as I had expected. We didn't jump into the water, as I had thought we would. Instead, we had to run (or walk) from the beach into the water until we reached the end of the carved out area, and then turn around and run back onto shore.

My plunge lasted about 2 minutes, but felt like an eternity! Running into the water, I had no feeling in my toes, and found it difficult to move very fast, as my shoes were falling off. The adrenaline kicked in quite a bit - with all of the screaming and cheering spectators and fellow plungers roaring in the distance. I high-fived the firefighter who stood in the water in a heavy duty orange suit, and made my way back to shore. 

Back on shore, my friend handed me my towels and robe and I immediately ran to the heated tent that was available for changing back into warm clothes. It took a long time for me to get the feeling back in my toes, but thankfully I only experienced minor discomfort. 

To cap off the event, a post-plunge party took place at the Cortland Moose Lodge complete with complimentary chili, bean soup, cornbread, chicken, and fixings! 

This probably goes down as one of the weirdest OHventures I have had, but nonetheless, I sense I will be doing it again in no time!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Discover Ohio Wines!

With more than 150 wineries scattered across Ohio, the state ranks 9th in the nation for wineries - an impressive feat! The temperate growing climate and the fertile soil on the lakeside accounts for the majority of Ohio's most well-known wineries, although no area of the state is lacking!

With so many to choose from, I have compiled a list of 10 unique wineries to visit across the state!

1. School House Winery (Tuscawaras County)
2. Camelot Cellars (Franklin County)
3. Lakehouse Inn Winery (Ashtabula County)
4. Gervasi Vineyard & Italian Bistro (Stark County)
5. Country Porch Winery (Trumbull County)
6. Myrddin Winery (Mahoning County)
7. Firelands Winery (Erie County)
8. Heineman's Winery & Crystal Cave (Ottawa County)
9. ThornCreek Winery (Summit County)
10. Bluebird Winery at Little Forest Inn (Carroll County)

Read my latest guest post on the Ohio Division of Tourism's official blog, Discovering Ohio for photos from each winery as well as my favorite wines I recommend you order at each location!