Thursday, June 30, 2016

Canopy Walk & Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum

Photos by OHventures

Holden Arboretum
9500 Sperry Road
Kirtland, OH 44094
(440) 946-4400

As a kid, my friends and I would spend hours in the woods, climbing trees, trying to get as high as we could, so we could see as far out as possible. Of course, we could never get too high, because we were so little, and because there was no safe or easy path to the top. Now, even as adults, the idea of being in the treetops is something we all still yearn for.

Thankfully, breathtaking treetop views are waiting for you at the Holden Arboretum, located in Kirtland, Lake County, Ohio.

The Holden Arboretum is a gorgeous park, and is considered to be one of the largest botanical gardens in the nation. There are more than 3,600 acres of gardens and wooded area to be explored, holding over 9,400 different kinds of plants.

Some highlights of the display gardens include the rhododendron garden, the hedge collection, and the magnolia collections. It's remarkable to walk through and see the beautifully colored array of flowers and plants, from lilies to witch hazels to lilacs, depending on the season.

But what we came for was the trees. You can walk along trails lined with conifers like pines, spruces and firs, and deciduous trees like maple, oak, and beech.

Now, thanks to two new features at the Holden Arboretum, you can also walk on top of and above the trees! The Murch Canopy Walk and the Kalberger Emergent Tower are open April 1 through November 1, and can be accessed by just a small fee at the ticket gate.

The Canopy Walk is 500 feet in length, and is built 65 feet above the forest floor. The walkway goes from tree to tree, and gives you an exciting and unique experience and perspective of the woods. Take your time to look up, down, and around when you are walking along these suspended pathways!

The Kalberger Emergent Tower is an impressive wooden structure that soars 120 feet into the sky. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to get a workout in as you climb a great deal of steps to reach the observation deck at the top! When you do finally get to the peak, you can get an unbeatable 360 degree view of the entire park, and the surrounding areas. You can even see Lake Erie to the north!

Be sure to bring a camera and take tons of pictures, and a water bottle! Make sure you prepare for a visit that lasts at least 2 hours, to account for the time it takes to wait in line for the tower, and the time it takes to soak in the views! After all, it's a view you've probably been hoping to see since you were a kid!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Shawshank Hustle Recap

Photos by OHventures

We all know and love the famed Ohio Reformatory. We've visited this historic now-defunct prison on numerous occasions before. We've seen it as a haunted house, and we have been on a tour to learn about all the movie secrets from when the Shawshank Redemption was filmed here after the prison closed in the early '90s. Now, we are visiting this famous Ohio landmark for a different reason: a 7K race called The Shawshank Hustle, which took place on June 11, 2016.

It is always an incredible sight to see this castle-like structure up close and personal, but it is even more incredible to see this architectural masterpiece with thousands of runners lining up for a race!

It was a clear, beautiful morning in Mansfield, but the problem for myself (and likely many others) was the heat! I am not sure how hot it was during our run, but the high that day was 90 degrees! This heat would definitely be a factor in my less than stellar performance in the 7K!

My trusty running partner, Matt, and I arrived that morning. After a few issues with road detours and long lines of cars for parking, we picked up our packets and explored the exterior of the Ohio State Reformatory. There were fun elements set up, like mock prison bars (pictured above), and a large metal gate (pictured below) that we climbed on for a photo!

Soon enough, however, it was time to line up to run. There were pace runners with signs, so that was a perk. However, I would soon find out that the pace we were aiming for (8 minute miles) was a bit too lofty a goal.

Not only was the heat a factor in slowing me down, but the HUGE hills also were cumbersome! Matt was kind enough to stick with me on the course, but I know I was slowing him down. The positive to going slower, however, was that we got to see some of the other points of interest along the race route. This included 5 additional filming locations from The Shawshank Redemption found throughout downtown Mansfield (including the Bissman Building and Carousel Antiques). You also pass the Mansfield Carousel, which we had tickets to ride as a perk for signing up, and the Phoenix Brewing Company, where we have complimentary beers after the race.

They describe the race as an "escape from the prison," and the final gigantic hill on the out-and-back course is referred to as "The Road To Redemption," which is definitely fitting. It was quite a challenge (you can view the race course from the POV of a runner here on YouTube). Our race medals were shaped like ball & chains, which is what I felt I had shackled to my ankle the whole way. Needless to say, I was glad the race was over.

Not only did the allure of the prison and the love of the movie bring people out in droves to this race, but the added bonus of having access to tour the facility following the run was also a perk!

We had the chance to see some remarkable infrastructure, such as the world's largest free-standing cell blocks (pictured above) and some of the props from the movie! It was a self-guided tour with so much to see, we could have spent hours inside!

The picture above is me in the prison cell, hanging my head in shame for having a slow race time (only joking of course). While I was disappointed with my time, my friend Matt showed me just what friends are for by bringing my spirits up and reminding me that everyone has a "bad race" every once in awhile. He shared with me the following words of wisdom: 

Some runs are bad. Some are good. A few are great - especially when you contrast them with the bad. It's easier to shake off a bad run when you remember that you've had plenty of great runs in the past. Terrible races make the good ones that much sweeter. Without the lows, the highs wouldn't feel nearly as good. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

SegAway Tours Of Columbus

Photos by OHventures

SegAway Tours of Columbus
400 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 222-3005

Having lived in Columbus for 10 years, I never thought that in just two hours on a Segway, I could learn so much more about the city, and see so many nooks and crannies that I had not yet seen. These two wheeled contraptions are extremely popular forms of recreational transportation, and many large cities offer tours via Segway.

SegAway 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.

There are several tours to choose from 7 days a week, on both mornings and afternoons. Evening tours are offered in summer months, when daylight allows. Each tour costs $59 per rider, and it is most definitely worth it, whether you are visiting from out of town, or if you've lived here all your life.

No experience is necessary to sign up for a tour. This was very important, since neither myself nor my friend Anna (from Colorado) had ever stepped foot on a Segway prior to our  tour this June. 

The instructors from SegAway Tours of Columbus provide 15-20 minute introductory lessons for the group. They were very helpful in getting our group of 8 riders comfortable and familiar with the Segway. The Segway is a self-balancing battery-powered electric vehicle, with computers, sensors, and electric motors in the base. This means there are no buttons, nobs, levers, or controls on the handles or "dashboard." Instead, riders command the Segway to go forward and backward by shifting their weight forward or backward on the platform. These means pushing down on your toes to move forward, and pushing back on your heels to go backward. 

The motions are very minor and sensitive, so it does take time to get used to it. Turning and steering is done with the handlebar, which shifts back and forth only to the left and right (it does not pivot like the handlebar of a bike). You go faster by pushing harder, and go slower by pushing lighter with your feet. The max speed is 12.5 mph, but the average speed we would be going on our tour was 8 mph.

After getting acclimated to the Segway, we were off and running. Our tour guide, Jim, had a headset on, and we all had earpieces so we could hear him as he described points of interest and landmarks along the way. He also would advise us of any pedestrians, obstacles, stop lights, and other instructions to be aware of while we rode.

Map from SegAway Tours of Columbus

We started at the Greater Columbus Convention Center (where the tour headquarters is located) and then made our way down to Nationwide Plaza. The route then led us down to the Ohio Statehouse, Columbus Dispatch building, Bricker & Eckler, the Ohio Theatre, the Columbus Commons, the Scioto Mile, COSI, North Bank Park, Huntington Park, Nationwide Arena, and then back to our starting point (we did not go to Goodale Park, as shown, due to ComFest taking place)!

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and added a good sense of humor and fun to the tour. He learned all of our names and interacted with us frequently. He would give us tips on how to improve our Segway techniques along the way. It was very helpful, because as time went on, I started to become more comfortable and natural on the Segway. He also stopped on a bridge and took photos of all of us.

The best part of the trip was all of the tidbits I learned, and all of the things that have changed in the city since I moved away 3 years ago. One of my favorite things to see was Coleman's Pointe, a scenic overlook named after Columbus' longest serving mayor, Michael Coleman. A quote by Mayor Coleman is shown on the promenade, which sums it up very nicely: "A city that stays the same falls behind."

Columbus is continuously changing, and seeing it from the vantage point of a Segway was incredibly exciting. Book your tour now because they fill up fast!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brandywine Falls

Photos by OHventures

Brandywine Falls
8176 Brandywine Rd.
Sagamore Hills, OH 44067
(234) 380-3789

I am pretty certain that I have found one of the most gorgeous places in Ohio: Brandywine Falls. Part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the falls are part of the Brandywine Creek, which is a tributary of the Cuyahoga River. These majestic waters fall from a height of 86 feet, making it one of the largest waterfalls in the entire state (click here for a map of all of the significant waterfalls in Ohio).

On top of being one of the tallest waterfalls, Brandywine Falls is certainly one of the most scenic in the state. You can access the falls by a series of wooden pathways built to overlook the water. From there, you can also take dirt and rock-covered trails to the base of the waterfall. It makes for awesome photos, as shown on this blog!

The falls are dog friendly, too. Slider definitely enjoyed trotting alongside me and soaking in the sights on a recent visit to Brandywine Falls in May. Additional amenities of the park include public restrooms, a 1.5 mile gorge trail (which bypasses the man-made boardwalks mentioned above), and a nearby bed and breakfast, called The Inn at Brandywine Falls.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Findlay Market Cincinnati

Photos by OHventures

Findlay Market
1801 Race Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 665-4839

Even 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!

On a recent visit, the hustle and bustle was in full force. Red picnic tables were overflowing with folks eating lunch, drinking local craft brews, and enjoying live music in the beer garden. Hundreds of people were perusing food and retail vendors located in both indoor and outdoor booths. 

There are over 40 full-time vendors, and an additional 50 pop-up vendors on the weekends, offering a mix of grocery, prepared foods, and related goods. This is where local restaurants come to get their meats, local breweries come to get their spices, and the general public come to stock their pantries.

With 1.2 million visitors a year, the Findlay Market is the fifth most visited place in Cincinnati. It is also known to be the most diverse spot in city as far as careers, income, and background of vendors and patrons alike.

The Findlay Market has served as the launching pad for larger success stories, including Taste of Belgium, an eatery offering waffles and other Belgian inspired dishes that started at Findlay Market in 2007, and has since expanded to four additional locations (including one in Columbus). 

Urbana Cafe is another example of a business that began in Findlay Market and has grown over the years. You can't miss the periwinkle-colored classic utility motorcycle fashioned into a mobile coffee shop, often appearing outside near the pop-up tents of the Market. Known to serve "coffee with a purpose," Urbana Cafe is an experience in and of itself!

With so many vendors to check out, I could go on and on. But, I will save you from that and simply give you a few top picks in addition to those mentioned above:
  • Zinncinnati: Flowers and decor
  • Mr. Kofinas: Infused olive oils
  • Pho Lang Thang: Vietnamese pho done right
  • Fireside Pizza: Oven baked pizzas - my weakness!
  • DIRT: A Modern Market: Veggies, fruits, cheese, and meats all in one shop.
  • J.E. Gibbs Cheese: Who doesn't love cheese?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Discover Medina County Wineries

Sipping on wine is more than just an experience for your tastebuds – it’s an all-around adventure that allows you to spend quality time with friends and family, all while soaking in the sights and sounds of Ohio's beautiful scenery.

As National Wine Month winds down, consider taking a trip to three great wineries found within Medina County: High & Low WineryFilia Cellars, and It’s Your Winery. All offer a fantastic selection of wines in comfortable Ohio countryside settings.

High & Low Winery is located in the City of Medina, and boasts that it is a place to meet all of your moods – whether you are looking for something casual or classy, laid back or upbeat, High & Low Winery has you covered.

The winery looks like a French chalet on the outside, and has a warm and modern feel on the inside. There's a fantastic menu to pair with the large selection of wines, including delicious paninis (try the Good Golly Miss Molly) and meat & cheese plates.

On a recent visit to High & Low Winery, me and some friends sat on the back porch, listening to local live acoustic music, and taking advantage of the great deals associated with their weekday happy hour! I tasted several wines, and would highly recommend the King Of The Heavies (a dry cabernet franc) or the Misunderstood (a rich merlot). If you're like me, you'll also appreciate the artwork found on the wine bottles, and you'll love the friendly staff!

Located just a few minutes down the street from High & Low (also in the City of Medina) is one of my new favorite spots, It's Your Winery. It has a small tasting room and retail area, and an enormous area for wine production!

It's Your Winery is named as such because it specializes specifically in offering patrons the unique experience of using state-of-the-art equipment to produce their own wine to take home with them in small batch form (30 bottles for a full case, or 15 bottles for a half case).

The winemaking process at It's Your Winery takes up to 10 weeks. You first come in to choose the wine you want to make, then begin the process with step-by-step instructions from knowledgeable staff. You come back in several weeks when the fermentation process has completed. This is when you bottle, cork, cap, and label the wine (with your own personalized labels)!

It's Your Winery has a HUGE selection of fruit wines. Everything from a cherry/peach sangria to a cranberry wine to a raspberry wine. Even if you don’t want to make your own wine, you can still come in and have a glass or some tastings!

Last on our tour of Medina County wineries is Filia Cellars, a new winery located in the City of Wadsworth. On a recent visit, the owners greeted me warmly, and I was told much about the history of the family’s wine business.

Wines here are made with grapes grown both here in Ohio (the white wines), and on the owner’s property in California (the red wines). The name, Filia, means “daughter” in Latin, and some of the wines are named after strong females in the family (Isabella, Hannah, Lillian).

Filia Cellars has a relaxing backyard atmosphere, complete with a duck pond, Adirondack chairs, and picnic tables with umbrellas. There is a small stage for live music, yoga sessions, paint parties, and even visits from local food trucks (Get Stuffed was there on my recent visit).

What I like best is that the outdoor section of the winery is dog friendly, so I was able to bring my little pup Slider with me, and my friends brought their French bulldog Beau! We sipped on the delicious dry reds and enjoyed the gorgeous weather.

Monday, June 20, 2016

AkRun & Crawl: After Dark Photo Blog

Who: Over 450 runners and crawlers
What: Torchbearers AkRun & Crawl
When: May 21, 2016 (and upcoming May, 2017)
Where: The Merriman Valley, Akron
Why: Because what goes better with a 5K than a pub crawl?
How: Lace up your shoes and show up thirsty!

Photos by OHventures and Tim Fitzwater Photography