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!

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 Recap

Photos by Tim Fitzwater

The milestone 10th Annual Torchbearers AkRun & Crawl was held on Saturday May 21, 2016. For the second year in a row, the event was held in the Merriman Valley, and for the first time ever, the event was held "After Dark," incorporating glow-in-the-dark elements along the course. 

This high-energy event kicked off with a 5K that started from the front of BCG & Co. Runners were taken along the scenic Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which was illuminated with LED lights, bright flashing balloons, and glow sticks that lined the course. In addition, all runners were given neon glow accessories, including necklaces and bracelets.

It was a cool spring evening, and the  sunset provided a perfect backdrop to kick off the night. DJ Garrick Black provided music to get the participants amped up for the run. AkRun & Crawl Committee member Patrick Bravo gave announcements, and introduced special guest Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan to provide remarks.

Torchbearers President Nicole Mullet also spoke to thank the runners, and soon enough, the horn sounded and the runners started on the course!  With thoughts of cold adult beverages, as well as  cheers from volunteers and beats from DJ Ben Fulkman, all of the runners made their way across the finish line. The athletes’ efforts were rewarded with bananas and water (provided by Giant Eagle) to help with their recovery before moving on to the next phase of the night.

A banner welcoming runners to the bars!

The next portion of the night was the bar crawl. This year, a total of 5 bars were along the crawl path, including The Corner Bar, The Lazy Gator, Shots, Woody's Tavern, and the starting point, Johnny J's. The participants were given special custom mugs that gave them drink specials for the night. Johnny J’s provided free (and delicious) burgers, hot dogs and sides. Drink specials were available at each bar, including "birthday cake" shots in honor of the "10th birthday" of the AkRun & Crawl.

This year’s AkRun & Crawl event brought in a record high number of registrations (454)! A big thank you definitely goes out to the event co-chairs, Michael Evans and Brian Berg, for a successful turnout.

We also would like to thank our sponsors: Brouse McDowell, Giant Eagle, Riverview Property Management and Yoga Bliss.

Torchbearers looks forward to seeing everyone at next year’s 11th Annual Torchbearers AkRun & Crawl!