Our Fall Bucketlist

I look back fondly on Fall 2016. My daughter just started walking, she started to imitate sounds and words, and we went on a ton of new adventures. This year I want to be sure to do our favorites again, so I decided to write them down all in one place. I am sharing our Fall Bucket List in hopes that you will find some inspiration, new ideas, or new places to explore. My hope is that your child will experience new vocabulary and opportunities for language growth along the way.

Our Fall Bucket List

Spend a Fall Day on US-68. We can spend a whole day on US-68 right outside the town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Pass the time by walking through a sunflower field at Tecumpseh Land Trust, picking out some fall treats at Peifer Orchards, or exploring Young’s Dairy.

Pick Apples. We have visited quite a few orchards in the Columbus area, but our favorite to date is Legend Hills Orchard, located in Utica, Ohio. The setting is tranquil and the rolling hills can separate you from the other apple pickers.

Play/Explore/Create with Apples. Need some inspiration? Check out our All About Apples post.

Visit a pumpkin patch. If you are looking for a pumpkin patch with all the bells and whistles, check out the Columbus Moms Blog’s pumpkin patch guide. We prefer to pick our pumpkins at Schacht Farm Market in Canal Winchester. It’s a simple set up with a U-pick pumpkin patch, corn maze, and a market.

Play/Explore/Create with Pumpkins.

Spend a Day at the Zoo. I think fall is the perfect time for a zoo day. The temperatures are cooler, the animals are still out, and Boo at the Zoo begins October 20th at the Columbus Zoo.

Paint a Pumpkin Teal. Join the Teal Pumpkin Project to provide children with food allergies a fun and safe evening of Treat-or-Treating with their peers. Homes participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project offer non-edible treats (stickers, temporary tattoos, etc.) to children with food allergies as alternatives to traditional candy.

Visit a Fall Festival. Columbus offers a variety of festivals around town. A start is the Harvest Fair at the Columbus Commons and the Independents’ Day Festival in Franklinton.

Make a Fall Themed Sensory Box.

Go on a Mini Fall Getaway. Last year we spent a long weekend in Traverse City, MI. This year we are heading to Denver, CO. Next year?

Join a Team and Participate in the Buddy Walk. The Buddy Walk was established in 1995 by the National Down Syndrome Society to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome. The Buddy Walk will be in Columbus, Ohio on October 1, 2017, at Mapfre Stadium.

Go on a Nature Walk

Jump in a Pile of Leaves

Pick out a Halloween Costume

Go Trick-or-Treating

Printable Fall Bucket List

Summer Challenge #10: Explore a Children’s Museum

To beat the heat of the dog days of summer, the challenge this week is to explore a Children’s Museum.

Children’s Museums provide rich environments that stimulate a child’s natural curiosity and creativity. Museums are generally multi-sensory, hands-on, active, and child-centered environments which offers children unique opportunities to play and learn.

Central Ohio is surrounded by a number of Children’s Museums. A few of our favorites include:

AHA! Children’s Museum located in Lancaster, Ohio. You can read all about our experience here.

Little Buckeye Children’s Museum located in Mansfield, Ohio. Our first hand experience is here. Also, be sure to ride the carousel down the street from the museum when you are there.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s worth the drive! Our experience is posted here.

My hope is that each and every adventure will be different and exciting. Please connect and share your experiences using #saynplaythesummeraway.

Summer Challenge #9: Visit a U-Pick Farm

This week the challenge is to locate and visit a u-pick farm in your area.

A u-pick farm is a wonderful opportunity to develop language in a natural setting. You can talk about the type of food being picked by describing how the food looks/feels/smells/tastes. Your child will also have the opportunity to follow simple directions during the activity, ex: pick one/put in/give me.

There are a variety of fruits and vegetables to pick at end of July/beginning of August. For an idea of what’s available for harvest in Ohio check out this Ohio Harvest Crop Calendar.

Some of our favorite u-pick farms to visit in the Central Ohio area include:

The Columbus Berry Farm for blueberries. Located 30 minutes south of Columbus, the berries are generally available for picking July 5th – August 10th, depending on the season.

Brastool Orchards for peaches. Located 45 minutes northeast of Columbus, peaches are generally ready for picking July 20 – September first depending on the season.

Blossoms at the Bend for u-pick flowers. Located in Williamsport, Ohio, Blossoms at the Bend is a U-Pick flower farm showcasing “old-fashioned’ favorites including red, white and coral peonies, delphiniums, snapdragons, and black-eyed susans. Customers can spend as much time in the gardens as they wish, select their favorite flowers, and cut their own bouquets for only $3 per bouquet.

My hope is that each and every adventure will be different and exciting. Please connect and share your experiences using #saynplaythesummeraway.

 

 

A Visit to Slate Run Living Historical Farm

Slate Run Living Historical Farm provides the opportunity to experience first-hand what farm life would be like on an Ohio farm in the 1880s. An old farmhouse, barn, and gardens, are open for visitors to explore. Staff, dressed in traditional attire from the 1880s, are there to work the farm, answer questions, and help get visitors involved in farm life.

I have read about Slate Run Farm for awhile now, but I have put off actually visiting. When I thought about making the trip it seemed far and I wasn’t sure my daughter would be interested in exploring the farm for longer than 20 minutes. I finally decided to check it out and made the trip down to Canal Winchester. It turned out to be an easy drive on U.S. Route 33- East out of Columbus and my daughter explored the farmhouse, barn, and surrounding gardens for close to 2 hours.

To get there I followed the GPS to the entrance of the Metro Park and then followed the signs for the “Slate Run Historical Farm” that led to a parking lot. There was then a path that took us back to the farm. Along the way we stopped to watch sheep and chickens.

We then checked out the farmhouse. It was built in 1856 and the living room, parlor and kitchen are open for visitors.

Of course, my daughter found the piano and the baby doll.

Scattered around the outside of the farm house were a variety of old-time activities for my daughter to play with. She loved swinging, rolling the wooden hoop and watching the marbles roll down the marble run.

After we were finished exploring the farmhouse we followed another path back to the barn. We spent close to an hour visiting the farm animals and exploring farm life.

The animals elicited a ton of language from my daughter: labeling the animals, animal sounds, and exclamatory sounds (those pigs were stinky… yuck!)

It was also important that she wave “hi” to every animal she encountered.

Along the way the farmers greeted us, invited us to pet the animals, and participate in some of the farm activities. My girl found grinding the feed corn to be another entertaining part of her day.

If you have been putting off a visit to Slate Run Historical Farm because you think it’s too far, trust me, it’s worth the drive. We spent two hours exploring the farmhouse, barn, and surrounding gardens and didn’t even make it to the actual Metro Park.

The details if you are planning a visit:

Directions: Plug the address into your GPS. The GPS should take you directly to the entrance and then follow the signs for “Slate Run historical Living Farm” back to the parking lot. The address: 1375 State Route 674 N. Canal Winchester, OH 43103

Hours: Check the website for holiday hours

April and May: Tue-Sat 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

June to Aug: Tue-Thu 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Fri-Sat 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sept to Oct: Tue-Sat 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Nov to March: Wed-Sat 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Some additional tips:

  • Wear tennis shoes
  • There are restrooms in the Metro Park area, but none back on the actual farm
  • There are picnic tables for a picnic lunch at the entrance to the farm
  • I wouldn’t recommend a stroller, but I saw plenty of them back on the grounds
  • Go early or go late to avoid the school groups

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Little Buckeye Children’s Museum

It’s Spring Break! which means there are a few extra hours in the week for an adventure. I have heard so many wonderful things about the Little Buckeye Children’s Museum, so I decided to take a mini road trip with my daughter to Mansfield, Ohio to check it out. The museum is approximately an hour and 15-minute drive north of Columbus and admission is only $8 (for 2 and up). The museum’s mission statement is “To Provide Children and Families Opportunities to Learn and Discover Through The Power of Play” and is an ideal location for visits by children ages 2-12 years. My daughter is 21 months and enjoyed herself.

The Little Buckeye Children’s Museum is located in Downtown Mansfield in a beautiful old building.  There are 28 exhibits (at last count) that occupy the two levels of the building. When you first arrive, there is a lobby area to check in and regroup. An open door leads into the lower level exhibit area, and right next to the open door is a door that leads to the upstairs exhibits. It didn’t take long for my daughter to find her way to the lower level exhibits.

Most of the downstairs area is designed as a mini-neighborhood and includes a grocery store, construction site, and theatre area. The lower level also includes an elaborate H2O Factory, with water flowing in from a large pipe on the wall and a dino dig site.

The upstairs is separated into rooms with designated themes. We enjoyed exploring the camping/nature room and the blue room filled with the big blue blocks that can be found at many children’s museums.

If you have a train lover in the family, she will love the train room located on the second level. There is an elaborate model train set up with a button to make the trains go, a button to activate the train horn, and a button to activate the fire station siren.

A nice addition to this museum is the tips for “ways to play” posted in each exhibit. Parents have a cheat sheet on the wall with specific tips to help support and engage a child in play for that specific area.

What is interesting about this museum is that there aren’t designated areas designed for specific age groups. While this would often deter me, because I am often worried about my little one being run over by older children, it was interesting to see the interactions between the different age groups in each exhibit. The exhibits are set up for open-ended play, so your child is able to experience the exhibits at her level and possibly learn new ways to play from the other children.

Some things to know before you go:

  • Parking: We parked in the lot at Main and 4th St., two blocks down from the museum. The free parking is designated by green curbs. There are also meters located on the street in front of the museum if you are in need of a closer parking spot.
  • Admission is $8 per person for ages 2 and up.
  • Bring a change of clothes if your child has any interest in the water table. There are smocks for your child to wear, but they may not always keep your child from getting wet.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2+ hours. We explored for about an hour, but a hungry toddler cut our visit short.
  • When I visit a children’s museum in a new area, I always like to ask staff where to eat. When I asked, we were directed towards The Coney Island Diner, a 50’s inspired diner. We feasted on greasy burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, and french fries.

While you are in Mansfield visiting the children’s museum, be sure to check out Richland Carrousel Park before you head home. It is located two blocks down from the children’s museum (right by the parking lot). It opened in 1991 and is the first new, hand-carved carrousel to be built and operated in the United States since the 1930’s. The carrousel is indoors, so even if it’s a rainy day you and your little one can enjoy a ride. One ride costs $1, and a package of 6 rides costs $5 (kiddos under 2 ride for free). There is a gift shop, concessions, and an outdoor area to enjoy as well.

I wan’t sure what to expect when I decided our destination was Mansfield, Ohio, but both my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed our adventure.

Disclaimer: The Little Buckeye Children’s Museum provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

A Spring Weekend in Cincinnati With Kids

Cincinnati, Ohio, is a one and a half hour drive south on I-71 from Columbus. Located on the Ohio River, the “Queen City” has much to offer on a weekend getaway with the family. It’s such an easy drive and a whole new city of adventure for Columbusites like us. Read on to see how we spent 28-hours exploring Cincinnati with our 19-month-old daughter.

Where to Stay

Do you Airbnb? Airbnb is a unique way to book lodging when you are traveling. It allows you to book a single room within a residence, an apartment, or an entire house in a unique location. I find when we travel with a toddler, it is nice to have a a room to put our daughter down for naps and bedtime, and then a separate space where my husband and I can unwind. In a hotel, it is often out of our price range to book a suite with separate living and sleeping spaces. With Airbnb, I can book an entire apartment for $50-$100/night that gives us a sleeping area, living area, and a full kitchen. In Cincinnati, I booked an apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood for $50/night. It was everything we needed in a living space and was 15 minutes from all of the attractions. Airbnb is definitely my new way to find lodging when I travel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to click my personalized link and get started!

The Highlights

The Duke Energy Children’s Museum: The children’s museum was the first stop on our weekend away. It is an easy one and a half hour drive down I-71 from Columbus and admission is only $5.50-$10.50 (depending on age). The museum provides eight educational and themed play areas, with two specifically designed for preschool-aged and younger. For a full recap of our visit to the museum, be sure to click here.

The Newport Aquarium: The aquarium is located just over the Ohio River in Newport, Kentucky. It boasts 14+ exhibits where you are up close and personal with thousands of aquatic animals from around the world. From sharks to penguins and alligators to frogs, there is a different creature around every turn. Click here for the highlights of our trip to the aquarium, and five experiences that both adults and toddlers can enjoy.

The Findlay Market: “Ohio’s oldest continuously operated public market and one of Cincinnati’s most cherished institutions, welcoming more than a million visitors a year.” Be sure to make a stop at the market to take in all the sights, smells and tastes it has to offer.

Where to Eat

The Maplewood offers “West Coast-style cuisine, which emphasizes healthier food using local and seasonal ingredients.” Although, there is no kids meal per se, we were able to build a delicious meal for our daughter A La Carte, and the adult meals were amazing. This is the type of “fast-casual” restaurant where you place your order at the counter and then your food is delivered after you find your seat. A unique feature of the restaurant that we greatly appreciated is that the staff helps your party secure a table (and a highchair) after you have placed your order.

The Sleepy Bee Cafe “is a gathering place that offers locally sourced sustenance – food that tastes, makes you feel, and is, good. In an environment that embraces the beauty of it’s community, through it’s and featured artistry.” This restaurant was recommended to us for breakfast and we are so glad we made a visit. There is a kids menu with healthy options. Our server was wonderful! She staggered food delivery for our hungry little one and dropped off books from the restaurant library to keep her entertained.

Until next time – A huge Thank You to The Duke Energy Children’s Museum and The Newport Aquarium for hosting our visits, and to the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau for coordinating our visit. We had a great time and are looking forward to visiting again in the summer months.

A trip to The Newport Aquarium with the Young and the Old(er)

We recently spent a weekend in Cincinnati, Ohio and The Newport Aquarium was a must see on our list of things to do. The aquarium is located just over the river from Cincinnati in Newport, Kentucky, so we were there in a matter of minutes from our stay in the city.

When my husband and I planned our trip to Cincinnati, we had our daughter in mind for each of our stops and picked destinations based on her interests and experiences. She loves the water, so we made sure The Newport Aquarium was on our list. However, we quickly realized once we arrived that what appealed to our toddler at the aquarium also appealed to us as adults. Read on for the highlights of our trip to the aquarium, and five experiences that both adults and toddlers can enjoy.

Up Close and Personal: The Newport Aquarium boasts 14+ exhibits where you are up close and personal with thousands of aquatic animals from around the world. From sharks to penguins and alligators to frogs, there is a different creature around every turn. The displays are arranged at varying eye-levels and include traditional aquarium viewing windows, overhead glass tunnels, and windows in the floors.

Touch A Shark: We were taught the two-finger touch technique to pet the sharks in Shark Central. It was exhilarating to be that close to such a wild creature. While my daughter couldn’t quite reach the sharks (and I didn’t quite trust her two-fingered touch), she loved watching us dip our hands in the water and being at eye level with the sharks.

Amazon Tunnel: “A 32-foot long acrylic tunnel lets you see the world’s largest freshwater fish – the Arapaima and the exotic Pacu – among dozens of other species.” My daughter was fascinated by the large fish swimming in front of her and over head. I was fascinated by the divers feeding the fish in the water.

Penguins: The penguin exhibit was fascinating. My daughter loved climbing up and down the stairs in the exhibit to see penguins at different levels. When she climbed to the top of the stairs, she could see the penguins above the water, and then when she got the the bottom of the stairs, she could see the penguins swimming below the water. My husband and I loved learning all the fun facts about these majestic creatures during the “penguin talk” from a friendly employee. My daughter also had the opportunity to see a penguin up close and personal during the talk.

Manageable Size: The Newport Aquarium was the perfect size for our toddler to navigate without the stroller. I loved that we could let her walk independently and follow her lead. She only requested to be picked up a few times to see something. There are so many wonderful exhibits in the perfect amount of space.

Some things to know before you go:

  • General Admission to the Newport Aquarium is $24.99/adults (ages 13+) and $16.99/children (ages 2-12).
  • Buy your tickets on-line ahead of time and skip the ticket line.
  • We parked in the Newport on the Levee Parking Garage took the elevator up to Level PL and were steps away from the aquarium.
  • Strollers are permitted, but due to the nature of the aquarium experience, kids and parents will enjoy their visit more without a stroller. Free child carriers are available to be borrowed from Guest Services.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 1 to 3+ hours. We explored for close to an hour and a half and there was still so much more we could have done.

We are so glad we made the trip across the river the The Newport Aquarium and cannot wait to make a return trip. As my daughter grows and her interests change there will be more for her to see and explore at the aquarium.

Disclaimer: The Newport Aquarium provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Learning Through Play at the Duke Energy Children’s Museum

We recently spent a weekend exploring Cincinnati, Ohio. The first stop on our adventure was the Duke Energy Children’s Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center. The museum is an easy one and a half hour drive down I-71 from Columbus and admission is only $5.50-$10.50 (depending on age). The relatively short drive and affordable cost allow it to be a fun day trip from home or must-see stop on a weekend away in the Queen City.

The museum provides eight educational and themed play areas, with two specifically designed for preschool-aged and younger. The children’s museum provides more than 1,800 additional hours of programming each year. We picked a weekend when the museum was hosting “Learning Through Play for Families.” Drop-in activities were offered throughout the space “for families to experience the joy and benefit of playing together in Duke Energy Children’s Museum.” It was busy, but we loved all the additional activities offered that day.

The museum is divided into sections and even has a large protected area for children ages four years-old and younger (which is wonderful for families like us with a toddler). The museum encourages kids to “climb, crawl, explore and learn about themselves and the world around them.” There is a lot to take in upon arrival and my daughter required a few minutes to warm up to the surroundings before engaging in an activity. Once she was comfortable, she began sprinting to activities that appealed to her. Below are the highlights of her favorite sections, along with ideas on how to encourage language development while exploring the museum.

Kids’ Town is a kid-sized neighborhood complete with a grocery store, daycare center, auto shop, and more. This area provides miniature versions of shops and toys to promote imaginative play. While playing, vocabulary specific to your child’s activities can be modeled to label objects and talk about what your child is doing, example: “You are driving!”

There were so many opportunities for my daughter to learn about the concept of up/down throughout the museum. She was very interested in the duplo center where she could build towers up and then knock them down. She was also interested in watching the play crane and dump truck. Children fill a basket with foam rocks, lift the basket up into the air and then watch the rocks fall down into the truck.

Another highlight of the visit was the house building area. My daughter watched mom and dad use the foam board to fill in the sides of the house, but she didn’t have much interest in joining us. She preferred walking inout, and through the house while carrying her doll. These concepts were used to narrate where she was in relation to the house.

The water area is large and provides many opportunities to use the concepts wet/dry. There are buckets to fill and dump, and opportunities to manipulate water movement. There is plenty of opportunity to get wet in the water area and then to dry off with the hand dryers when you are done.

Little Sprouts Farm is an area designed for children 4 and younger and is a protected space separated from the rest of the museum by an entrance gate. My daughter enjoyed watching balls stop/go on a ramp, climbing up/down, and playing in the soft sand. This area provides so many opportunities for movement and for an adult to model vocabulary while your child is playing.  

The above exhibits were the most age appropriate for my daughter and where we spent the majority of our time. Older children will enjoy spending time exploring the three-story structure in The Woods and being part of a complex machine in the Energy Zone.

Some things to know before you go:

  • The Union Terminal is currently undergoing extensive repairs and restoration. The Duke Energy Children’s Museum and the special exhibits hall are the only exhibits open at this time.
  • Parking is located in front of the building and is $6/vehicle, $4/vehicle after 4:30 p.m. and free for members.
  • Admission for the children’s museum is $10.50/adults, $8.50/children (3-12 yrs), $5.50/toddlers (1-2 yrs) and 1 and under are free.
  • Bring a change of clothes. If your child is anything like mine, she will be all in when it comes to the water table and will need a change before going home.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 3+ hours. We explored for close to two hours and there was still so much more we could have done.

The trip to the Duke Energy Children’s Museum was the highlight of our Saturday. We are so glad we made the trip to the and can’t wait to go back to see the completed renovations at the Cincinnati Museum Center. There is still so much for us to explore in the museum as our daughter continues to grow.

Disclaimer: The Duke Energy Children’s Museum provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

A visit to the AHA! Children’s Museum

We had the time and opportunity over winter break to explore the AHA! A Hands-On Adventure, A Children’s Museum, in Lancaster, Ohio, and we are so glad we did! The museum is an easy 45-minute drive from Columbus and admission is only $6, which makes it a very manageable and worthwhile day trip. The museum’s mission statement is, “Educating children in a world of discovery, curiosity and imagination through hands-on play.” The museum is designed to educate and accommodate children ages six months to eight years-old.

There is a lot to take in upon arrival. The museum is a 4,000 square foot, open space, with 33 hands-on exhibits (at last count). When we first arrived, we set our daughter down at the entrance to let her take it all in. It took her a few seconds to warm up before she made a beeline to the interactive fire engine. The fire engine had bells and whistles (literally) in and around the truck. Children can dress the part of a firefighter, drive the fire engine, turn on sirens, and pretend to put out a fire.

Her other favorite exhibits included:

Water Table: The water table is made up of four sides. Each side is a different height with a specific activity to appeal to different age groups. This water table held her interest for a long time. Children can manipulate the flow and current of the water by building different sets of tubes and funnels. Inevitably, she was soaked afterwards, but loved every minute of it!

 

Ball Mountain. This was such a fun interactive exhibit for our daughter to learn problem solving and discovery skills. She could fill a bucket with balls and then carry the bucket to the top of the mountain, with assistance. Once at the top of the mountain she could push the balls through the different tubes to see where each one came out.

Fishing Pond. She may have been a bit small for this exhibit, but she loved trying to catch those fish! With our help, she was able to “catch” a magnetized bean bag fish with her fishing pole and then throw it back into the pit.

Honeycomb Climbing Structure. She didn’t make it past the first level (thank goodness!), but she loved climbing in and out and waving to the kids on the different levels. When she’s older, I’m sure she’ll make it to the top!

These were the exhibits that held her interest the longest. But, there was so much for her to see and explore throughout the museum. It was wonderful watching her play with other children and interact with exhibits designed for someone just her age.

Some things to know before you go:

  • Parking is located next to the building and it’s FREE!
  • There are lockers and a coat room just to the left of the entryway into the museum.
  • Admission is $6 per person and children ages six months and younger are free.
  • Bring a change of clothes. If your child is anything like mine, she will be all in when it comes to the water table and will need a change before going home.
  • A visit can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 2+ hours. We explored for close to an hour and a half and didn’t even get to everything in the museum.

If you are looking for a place to have lunch after visiting AHA!, be sure to stop at The Well. The museum director, Wendy, recommended the restaurant and we are so glad she did! The restaurant is a two-minute walk from the museum and describes itself as “a modern gathering place for the whole family to eat, drink, play and live.” The restaurant is family owned and you can tell how much thought and love they put into the service, food, and space. The restaurant offers delicious, healthy food choices, which hit the spot after a cookie-filled holiday, and our daughter loved the beautiful play space available in the rear of the restaurant.  

We are so glad we made the trip to the AHA! Children’s Museum and can’t wait to go back! Just a heads up, AHA! will be moving to a new location in Lancaster, which is double the size, in the fall of 2017.

Disclaimer: The AHA! A Hands-On Adventure, A Children’s Museum provided me and my family with complimentary admission. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 

 

Exploring Traverse City with Kids

Located on Lake Michigan, Traverse City is the “Cherry Capital of the World” and a wonderful place for a weekend trip in the fall for any family. We had heard so many wonderful things about Northern Michigan that we decided to hit the road to check it out for ourselves. In one weekend, we fell in love with the city and it’s residents! The people were refreshingly friendly, the scenery was breathtaking and we never had to search far for a good meal. Read on to see how we spent a fall weekend exploring Traverse City, Michigan, with our 14-month-old daughter.

Where to Stay

The Sugar Beach Resort Hotel – Located on East Grand Traverse Bay, Lake Michigan. The highlights of this resort are the room size, complimentary breakfast, an indoor swimming pool and, of course, the beautiful sandy beaches. We arrived after sunset, in the rain, and didn’t know what to expect from our location. We woke to find this view right outside the hotel.

The staff at the resort were all incredibly welcoming and helpful in answering any questions we had. The resort was well maintained and clean. We felt completely at home at The Sugar Beach Resort Hotel. Although, we were there for only a weekend on this trip, I could easily see us spending an entire week there in the future.

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The suites are so spacious! Along with a dining and seating area, our suite had a separate bedroom with double doors where we could put our daughter down in her portable crib for bedtime. When we arrived at the Sugar Beach Resort, it was too late to explore downtown, but with the separate rooms, my husband and I were able to order in food and unwind together while our daughter was sleeping soundly in the other bedroom. Generally, when it comes to hotel living, we often spend our evenings clumsily tip-toeing around the room in the dark after our daughter goes down for the night…This was a welcome change!

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The resort is a 10-minute drive from downtown Traverse City. Given the location, the amenities, and the room size, this resort was an ideal home base for us.

Baby girl loved the room, too. She had plenty of space to explore and wear out her tiny legs.

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The Highlights

The Great Lakes Children’s Museum – A hands-on interactive environment designed for children ages 1 to 10. Admission is $7 per person (children under 1 year-old are free) and is valid all day.

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We were the first ones in the door when the museum opened at 10 a.m. We had the whole museum to ourselves for a while! Our first stop was the Great Lakes Room. This is a play space near the museum entrance and separate from the main exhibits. On the day we visited, the room was set up with interactive stations designed for a variety of ages (building blocks, interactive books, etc.). My girl spent most of her time between the alphabet letter board (pictured below), sensory bins filled with uncooked rice and noodles, and boxes filled with noise-making toy birds and bugs.

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Overall, we spent an hour and a half exploring the museum. The museum itself is the perfect size for little ones. Not too small that their done exploring in 2o minutes, but not so big that your little one can’t explore it all before they’re tuckered out. Each corner offers something for your child to see or touch. There was so much for my girl to take in she was constantly on the move to see it all. Baby girl loved the water feature and the interactive map of the Great Lakes (pictured below).

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Downtown Traverse City – Take the time to wander up and down the main strip. There are toy stores, clothing stores, and bookstores to explore…and so many treats to taste! My girl loved taking in the sights, waving to people on the street and reaching for items she wanted to buy. We were so struck by the friendliness of everyone. We were greeted up and down the street and in every store with smiling faces and warm hellos.

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Mission Point Lighthouse – Located at the end of the Old Mission Peninsula north of Traverse City. The lighthouse is a 30-minutes drive from downtown Traverse City, but well worth the trip. The picturesque drive on State Route 37 takes you past cherry orchards and vineyards. The lighthouse is open daily for self-guided tours from May-October from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the rest of the park is open daily from dawn to dusk.img_8903

We arrived after 5 p.m., so an inside tour of the lighthouse wasn’t on the agenda for us. We walked around the lighthouse and then made our way down to the beach. The beach itself was worth the drive! Crystal clear water and some of the softest sand imaginable. My girl’s favorite part was swinging on the swings we found that overlooked the lake and playing in the sand.

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City Playgrounds – There are several playgrounds scattered throughout Traverse City. A complete list can be found here. Being a new walker, my girl needed some time to move on her own on a manageable surface. She loved the freedom she had while at the playground. The rubberized surface on the ground gave us some peace of mind as she walked (and fell…and fell, again) around the playground. Many of the playgrounds over look Lake Michigan, which serves as a beautiful backdrop for any little one’s adventure.

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Sleeping Bear Dunes – Located in the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, approximately 30 minutes west of Traverse City. The park offers a variety of ways to access the dunes, including dune climbs, a scenic drive, and hiking trails.img_9010

The thought of a strenuous hike with a 14-month-old seemed daunting, so we opted to take the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. The scenic drive is a 7.4 mile loop with 12 marked points that allow you to park your car and explore.

These are the stops you shouldn’t miss:

#2 Glen Lake – There is no parking lot at this stop, just a pull off point. But once out of the car, you are treated to this spectacular view.

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#3 Dune Overlook – A very short walk from the car to the overlook. A beautiful stop.

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#9 Lake Michigan Overlook – It is a short walk from the car to the Lake Michigan Overlook. Then, there is then a short path uphill to stop #10, Sleeping Bear Dune Overlook. It is well worth the stop for the views! Baby girl’s favorite part was playing in the sand. Both stops offer breath-taking views of Lake Michigan. Honestly, the photos don’t even do it justice!

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Where to Eat

Grand Traverse Pie Company – The perfect stop to refuel at lunchtime. There is a kids menu and a variety of options to choose from for adults (sandwiches, soups, salads, etc.). Make sure you save room for a slice of pie at dessert! There are tons of options from which to choose. We recommend any pie that includes cherries (you are in the “Cherry Capital of the World,” after all). Baby girl recommends the blueberry applesauce!

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The Filling Station Microbrewery – A wonderful spot for dinner for both children and adults. This microbrewery is located in an old train depot and offers a list of craft beers, food, indoor/outdoor seating, live music and activities for children.

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Upon our arrival, the waitstaff was extremely helpful directing us in how and what to order (it’s all done at the bar and delivered to your table). The staff was warm and inviting. They had great suggestions on food and drink pairings, and took the time to ask questions to better understand our personal tastes. They also helped us locate a high chair, which made dining on the patio much easier for our family.

My husband and I split a fresh garden salad and wood-fired pizza. After a full day of site-seeing, both were delicious and hit the spot. My beer geek husband even approved of the in-house microbrews in his sampler! After enjoying our meal (we were pleasantly surprised at how quickly it arrived, despite a large weekend crowd), we walked across the tracks to a children’s garden. This gave our girl a chance to move on her own after being strapped in a high chair during dinner. Baby girl loved exploring the wooden train (pictured below).

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Cherry Republic – The world’s largest exclusive retailer of cherry food creations. We didn’t realize until we arrived to Traverse City that more than half of the nation’s cherries are grown in Northern Michigan. Cherry Republic is a shrine to Northern Michigan’s the cherry growing glory!

Upon entering, we found samples located throughout the store. We tasted chocolate covered cherries, cherry salsa, cherry barbecue sauce and dried cherries. This is literally only a small example of the cherry food items in the store. You could spend hours in this store and find dozens upon dozens of cherry items. The store offers a retail area, a wine bar, a cafe and children’s play space. We highly recommend the cherry salsa and may be traveling back to Traverse City just to restock! Baby girl highly recommends the dried cherries.

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That’sa Pizza – When we arrived in Traverse City on the first night, it was just in time for baby girl’s bedtime. We were hungry, tired and hoping to unwind. After speaking with the front desk, we were informed that That’sa Pizza delivered to the resort. The pizza was delicious and the salad was made with fresh vegetables. It was reasonably priced and arrived quickly. If you’re looking to eat in, this checks all the boxes.

Until next time – A huge Thank You to Sugar Beach Grand Resort for hosting our stay in Traverse City, Michigan, and to Traverse City Tourism for coordinating our visit. We truly had a wonderful time and fell in love with this beautiful and inviting city!

We couldn’t possibly visit all that Traverse City had to offer in one weekend and hope to return to explore further. Please, leave a comment and share your favorite spots for next time we visit!

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