Ten Midwest Weekending Adventures

I call Ohio home and have for almost 27 years (a.k.a. my life). We do a roadtrip at least once a year, but there are millions of places I haven’t been. Today I’m sharing some places in my neck of the woods that still remain on my bucket list. For me, these places are only 1.5 to 6 hours away.

No one is paying me to write this, but if companies would like to give me a free stay/visit in exchange for a blog post I’d happily oblige 😉

(1) Treehouses at The Mohican | Glenmont, OH
This is a popular place for romantic weekends, fall trips, and bachelorette party get-aways. My brother and his wife spent a weekend here once & loved it. These just think they look awesome! Can you imagine this place in the fall??

(2) Ohio State Reformatory | Mansfield, OH
I’ve been here twice- once on a 4th grade field trip & once on a classic car tour. Shawshank Redemption was filmed here! This remains on my list because I’ve never been during Halloween… They offer a pretty insane haunted prison experience. K isn’t into haunted things so I’d have to gather a group of friends. 100% NOT going alone 😉

(3) Mammoth Cave National Park | Kentucky
I’ve been her as a kid, but I really want to go back! I’m dying to explore the caves and maybe go spelunking! (Again, K isn’t quite as excited about this… ha.)

(4) Chicago
I know that’s vague, but Chicago is about six and a half hours from us and I’d love to visit as an adult- especially around Christmas time!

(5) Lakeside | Lakeside, Ohio
This cute little destination along Lake Erie is actually a little Christian community. (I think I almost applied for a job in the area in college.) From what I can tell it has that small town Stars Hollow kind of feel. Adorable!

(6) Upper Peninsula/Mackinac Island | Michigan
This is one of those rare places that K has been and I have not. Fortunately, he thinks it’s a gorgeous place and he really wants to visit again! I’m thinking this is a spring or summer trip!

(7) The Old Vermilion Jailhouse | Vermilion, Ohio
I think this unique little bed & breakfast looks so neat! It really is a historic jail.

(8) National Corvette Museum | Bowling Green, Kentucky
This is K’s contribution to the list- he’s been talking about this museum forever. The museum actually experienced a sinkhole a few years ago. Right now they’re adding on to the manufacturing facility next door & K says we need to wait to go so we can tour both places.

(9) Ravenwood Castle | New Plymouth, Ohio
Remember that time I was obsessed with The Tudors? Yeah, I’d love to spend the night in a castle!

(10) Any NASCAR tracks nearby that I haven’t been to…
There are so many race tracks within hours of us that I haven’t visited: Martinsville, Charlotte, Chicagoland, Indianapolis, Kentucky, Pocono, & Richmond.

I’m linking up with the amazing Emma at The Adventures of a London Kiwi as well as her friends Polly (Follow Your Sunshine) & Angie (SilverSpoon London) & Erin (Erin Out and About) for the Travel Link-Up!

Have you ever stayed in a super unusually hotel or B&B? What are some day-trips you’d like to take?

(Any local resorts want to offer me a free stay? 😉 lol)

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Let’s Go to the Beach, Beach…

Last week (during my blog hiatus) I vacationed to Sunset Beach, NC with my family. Kyle and I, my mom and dad, and my little brother Fred and his wife Christina all stayed in a 4 bedroom beachfront house along the east coast.

It was kind of odd to be back in a house with my parents and brother- especially with the addition of our spouses. We all have different personalities and habits, but I think the week went really well.

K and I were almost always the first ones awake. We also made almost all the homemade meals. We were I was also the planner of the days/excursions.

Fred and Christina were much more laid back. They went on walks when they wanted to, woke up naturally and slowly, and often went with whatever flow I suggested. (Our older sibling/younger sibling personalities come out in full force when we’re together…)

My parents are familiar with Fred’s and my differing personalities so they just mediated and provided some form of structure. There were no outburst last week, though, so my parents had a pretty easy job.

Like most beach vacations we had a nice mix of shore time, restaurant dining, mini-golfing, and adventuring. We wandered up to Wilmington, NC one day to tour the USS North Carolina and grab some lunch. Another day was spent down in North Myrtle Beach at the outlet malls.

Funny enough, K’s family was vacationing in MB the same week we were down there. We spent the 4th of July having dinner at their beach house and visiting with relatives that we only see once a year. (They had 15 people living in their house… 😳)

As I mentioned on Tuesday, my parents’ 14 year old shepherd-lab mix passed away from old age while we were gone. We all hated that we weren’t with Heidi for those last few days. She was a loyal, sweet, stubborn, protective, loving soul. My parents’ dog-sitter Jen was devastated to find that Heidi had died in her sleep- we all felt terrible for her. Obviously it wasn’t Jennifer’s fault and she had nothing to do with Heidi’s passing, but what a crappy thing to discover…

The heartwarming thing was that a handful of my parents’ friends called or texted to offer their condolences and some even offered to drive out to my parents’ house and bury her. My grandma had saved a steak bone from their supper for Heidi the night before and was heartbroken to hear she’d died. I honestly can’t explain how good it feels to be a part of a community that loves our family- including all our dogs.

So overall, even with the loss of Heidi, our vacation was a nice one. K and I are super happy to be home with our fur babes and it’s nice to be back in the midst of our company (running a company from the road is stressful but necessary). That said, the week-long break was 100% necessary.

This was my first time at Sunset Beach! It was much quieter and less commercialized than Myrtle. I’d recommend the island to anyone. Specifically, if you’re in the area, check these out!

Crabby Oddwaters (restaurant in Sunset Beach, NC)
Sooooo good. The staff was super friendly, the atmosphere was beachy and slightly bayou-y, and we had an amazing meal! We also saw an alligator (…crocodile?) in the water outside the window!


USS North Carolina (navy boat and museum in Wilmington, NC)
Last year when K and I went to Myrtle we almost wandered up the coast to tour this ship, but we decided not to. I’m so glad we went this time around! I love history and walking through the cabins and rooms of a once-active warship gave me goosebumps. It was hotter than Hell but I loved experiencing this piece of history!


Bummz Beach Cafe (restaurant in Myrtle Beach, SC)
We had the steamed shrimp as an appetizer and it was so. dang. good. I swear I’ve thought about that shrimp at least once a day since we left Bummz. I think you’d definitely drive right past this place if you were cruising N. Ocean Boulevard for some dinner, but I’m telling you right now you need to pull over and give this place a shot! (Also, it kind of cracked me up that my grandma sent us to this restaurant… I mean, it’s named after butts… hahaha!)

Have you been to Sunset Beach, NC? Where is your summer vacation spot this year?

Why Do I Keep Going to Myrtle Beach in the Fall…?

Remember all those eons ago when I talked about our side trip to Charlotte, NC? Yeah… it’s tough for me to recall, too. Anyway… Charlotte was just a pit stop on the way to our main destination: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. **This is a long post 😉

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Just a refresher… in October K and I packed up the car after work and headed to Circleville, OH. We did some Pumpkin Festival fest-ing with my brother and Christina, stayed the night in stormy Lancaster, OH, then took a lap around the NASCAR museum in Charlotte. After dinner at Carolina Ale House we forced ourselves back into the car for the three hour trek to Myrtle Beach. Now you’re all caught up.

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I am a Grade-A, award-winning, hall of fame plan-a-holic. I take relaxing vacations and plan them down to the millisecond, squashing any and all spontinuity out of the experience. But this time I didn’t. I didn’t plan one. single. thing. I made note of fun things we could do, but I put no pen to paper, made no reservations, and formed no expectations. All per K’s request.

F R I D A Y

We got in pretty late on Thursday so the adventuring began the following morning.

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We stayed at The Horizon at 77th – it was one property off the beach and down a side road from N Kings Highway. Our rooms were in that center section. The hotel was in Myrtle Beach, but on the north side which meant we could venture to North Myrtle without any trouble.

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We picked a chilly weekend to visit the beach so we tried to take advantage of the warmest day on the trip. We started off browsing the Tanger Outlets at Hwy 17 and picked up a few Christmas gifts for folks. We also nommed on lunch in the food court and treated ourselves to Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream.

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It was a breezy 80 degrees by 3pm so we packed up the towels, blanket, and umbrella, and walked to the beach.

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After a few chapters, a stroll along the coast, and a near-fatal wind+umbrella incident we decided to call it a day. I think we spent an hour and a half on the sand. (That’s the risk you take in October, I guess. )

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We decided to be a little adventurous and try out some new restaurants on our trip. We made a reservation at Aspen Grille for 6:15pm and got spiffy.

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High risk, high reward. Dinner was delicious. It was a slightly expensive meal, but we were 110% satisfied. We ended the night on the couch watching a NatGeo special on Teddy Roosevelt. #excitingtimes

S A T U R D A Y

In hindsight we’ve both decided I should’ve planned something during the trip. Anything, really. We spent the morning at the local Cracker Barrel and then Bass Pro, Books-A-Million (where K bought me two books as a late b-day gift), and a smaller local mall. We also stopped into the Harley shop for K before deciding to visit Boardwalk on the Beach.

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Lunch was at American Tap House where the first conversation in this post happened. K got a burger and I ordered a Thai Chicken Salad.

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Lunch was late in the day and after we finished we decided to just lounge around the hotel room.

For dinner K discovered a restaurant called Boom Boom Wine Room. Um. It was the coolest place.

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Upon arrival they loaded a debit card with any amount you wanted for use in the wine bottle machines. You could then select different wines in different quantities from the machines. (1, 3, and 5 ounce I think). It awesome!

The food was snack-like and we ordered plates of the short-rib nachos, bruschetta, and “buttered scotch” pudding. Delicious.

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S U N D A Y

I am married to an early-rising homebody so by 7:10am we were on the road. We got home without incident before dusk 🙂

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To be totally honest, it was a “meh” trip for us. I’m glad we had the opportunity for downtime together, but we got a little bored. I failed to plan anything fun, we’ve been to Myrtle Beach a handful of times, and there wasn’t much beach-ing. The food was incredible, though!

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Do you enjoy traveling in the fall? Have you been to Myrtle Beach? Have you ever taken a trip that didn’t live up to the hype?

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Bopping Around Charlotte, NC

Every Fall the travel bug bites me and I get the crazy notion that K and I need to spice things up with a trip (much to his chagrin). One year we went to Jamaica, one year I took a girls’ trip to the beach. This October my parents gave us their hotel points and we headed to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We left home Wednesday night after work & got back on Sunday.

Typically we follow the same path south through the mountains multiple times a year, whether we’re going to the east coast or Florida (that’s a hellish drive) or the NASCAR races in Bristol. We’re usually in a car full of people and/or adhering to a strict schedule. Since this trip was just K and I, we decided we wanted to veer off our usually path, add about 45 minutes (which turned into two hours thank to traffic), and spend some time in Charlotte, NC.

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We started talking about a side trip a few days before we left, but we didn’t decided to go for it until we were on the road. (I am a Type-A anal-retentive planner/traveler, but I summoned all my strength to plan nothing [save the hotels and such] and just go with the flow.) We’d both never spent any time in Charlotte- home of the NASCAR Hall of Fame/admin. offices- so it was a unanimous decision to stop and explore.

Originally we planned to leave Thursday, but K and I said ‘goodbye’ to the dogs and packed up the car on Wednesday night. We drove about two hours south to meet my brother & his wife in Circleville, OH. If you’ve never been, there’s really not much except the Annual Circleville Pumpkin Show. K isn’t one for festivals or fairs, but I was annoyingly persistent- plus my baby brother was begging to hang out with us. Around 7 or 8 pm we arrived in town, spent 20 minutes trying to park, and finally left my car in the sketchy backyard of a town resident (for like $10 bucks). Despite a Cleveland Indian’s win that he’d listened to the whole way down, K’s mood was not stellar. Still, he plastered a smile on his face and walked around the crowded streets with us while I stuffed my face with french fries and pumpkin spice pulled pork (oh my gosh- SO good) and apple cider.

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We said goodbye to Fred & Xtina around 10pm and drove an hour to our hotel in Lancaster. We arrived just in time because an insane storm blew in just as we got settled in our room. I have never heard rain and thunder so clearly while staying in a hotel. The flashes of lightning through our drawn curtains were so intense. Of course K slept through the whole thing.

The next morning we packed up our car again and started south. It was a mostly uneventful drive. Traffic getting into Charlotte was a pain, but once we were in the city it was actually pleasant. Brace yourself… here come all the pictures…

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The building was architecturally incredible. The museum was intricate and modern, too. We purchased standard tickets (as in didn’t include a simulation ride or food) and they handed us two access cards. When we registered the cards outside the small informational theater we were able to enter our name, pick out a helmet design, and choose our race car driver tour guide. Obviously I picked Kasey Kahne. K chose Jimmie Johnson.

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This was the waiting area where you registered your card & wait for the 12-minute film.

Upon exiting the theater there was an entire exhibit dedicated to Tony Stewart or “Smoke.” He’s retiring after the 2016 year ends so some of his cars, fire suits, trophies, etc. are on display in the hall. From there you walk up a long, winding ramp that follows the progression of racing and the stock cars involved. It has winning cars from various years as well as details on each NASCAR track- both in-use and retired.

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Cars/Pixar fans might recognize the ‘Hudson Hornet’- which was a real race car!

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Our race track :)
Our race track 🙂

We practically had the entire museum to ourselves, which was glorious. I regret that I took so many pictures & didn’t read more of the information. That said, we were finishing up just as the museum was closing so if I’d have read all the things I wanted to we’d have never made it through in time. We’ll go back someday soon.

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There’s a circular room with all the HOF inductees. Each person has a pole like this that includes their image, information, and a video about their involvement in the sport.

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The museum has a Hall of Fame Room, a pit crew challenge (K beat me… stupid tire was so heavy!), a race simulator, and a top floor dedicated to the history of the sport. Kyle Busch was the champion last year and they had his car and the trophy on display at the museum.

The race simulator was awesome. Our package didn’t include it so we were prepared to pay $5 but the staff member just let us slide through since it was the end of the day. (Honestly, the customer service at NASCAR was ridiculous. Everyone was friendly and helpful and attentive. It was a really great experience for us!) K ran second for most of the race, but he was wrecked right at the end and finished 6th. I got 4th place after blowing my engine at the beginning. Oops…

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We didn’t want to eat at the museum’s BW3 because we have one in our town, so we wandered down the street and found Carolina Ale House. Blogger-fail on my part because I didn’t take any food pictures, but trust me when I say it was delicious! Our pulled pork nachos were incredible. We also has a window seat so I could watch downtown Charlotte and over-analyze everyone. #MyFavorite

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We both wished we’d had more time Charlotte (a.k.a. we later decided we should’ve just vacationed to Charlotte), but it was only meant to be a short stop on our way to our destination. After dinner we hopped in the car and started on the 3 hour drive to the beach.

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Cape Cod [ 2 of 2 ]

Monday I tackled the first half of the alphabet in regards to Cape Cod. Today I’ll tackle the second half.

This will essentially sum up my vacation 🙂 I have a guest post next month with Olya  on The Siberian American with more details on Nantucket, so keep an eye out for that!

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Boston

N -New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This was our first trip to this race track! I’m glad we got to experience it!

O – Oysters. Three of us (not K) tried oysters for the first time. Um…. we all agreed that they’re gross. Haha!

P – Pit passes. We had passes to go down into the race track pits. It was awesome to see the cars and crew up close.

Q – Qualifying. I’ve never watched the Sprint Cup (NASCAR) qualifying races but we had tickets to all three days of racing in NH!

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R – Restaurants. We had a kitchen in the hotel & we ate-in a few times, but we hit up so many delicious restaurants in the cape.

S – Shipyard. We didn’t have a set plan for Boston so when K suggested the shipyard we put on our walking shoes and went!

T – Two hours and 15 minutes. That’s the length of the ferry ride from Hyannis Port to Nantucket.

U – Unscheduled. We took an unplanned, unscheduled stop in Plymouth, MA to see Plymouth rock!

V – Vehicle… er, land vehicle. We took a DUCK boat all around Boston Friday morning & learned a little about the city and it’s history!

W – Whale watching! I loved whale watching- especially seeing the moms and calves!

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X – eXhaustion. (Ok, that’s a stretch…) On Wednesday I found myself tired & nauseous. I think heat exhaustion got the best of me.

Y – Yelping. Our dogs actually cried and yelped when we walked back through the door. (Or maybe that was me….)

Z – Zee end. Overall, it was a ridiculously packed vacation that came right on the eve of my brother’s wedding… Which means I’m already dreaming about a tropical beach and spiked drink  😉

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Cape Cod [ 1 of 2 ]

Hi ya! I thought I’d do a quick two part recap on our trip to the Cape today & Wednesday! Instead of rambling on and on about each day I’m going to give an abbreviate alphabetical version of our trip. Before I do, here are the basics:

K and I left Sunday morning with my parents for a 9 day trip. We spend Sun. night in Greenwich, CT and M/T/W in Dennis Port, MA with a quick day trip to Nantucket on Tues. Thursday afternoon through Friday morning was in Boston with the remainder of Friday & Sat/Sun spent in Loudon and Lincoln, NH at the NASCAR race. We drove home (+12 hours) on Monday.

A – Ascend. On Thursday we climbed the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston. 294 steps in +80 degree weather!

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B – Biking. We biked over 18 miles while on Nantucket! It was exhausting.

C – Connecticut. We spent our first night of vaca. in Greenwich, Connecticut- just as a resting point.

D – Dogs. I missed our babies terribly but I tried to pet at least two dogs every day on the trip. Ha!

E – Excursion. We traveled in my Dad’s three-row, black Ford excursion. For over 1,600 miles total.

F – Fred. This was my first family vacation without my little brother 😦

G – Good weather. We had mostly warm, rain-free weather all week! At times it was so hot but overall it was fantastic.

H – Humidity. Seriously, you just can’t escape it!

I – Island. It was so fun to introduce my parents to the Island of Nantucket!

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J – Juice Bar. The Juice Bar is a delicious ice cream shop on Nantucket!

K – Kyle. It was another one of those whirlwind, jam-packed vacations & K was such a trooper.

L – Lincoln & Loudon, New Hampshire. We stayed in one city & watched the races in the other!

M – Massachusetts. We spent four days in MA and this was my firs trip to Boston!

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You can find the second half of the alphabet here!  🙂

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Another Weekend in the Books | #gratefulheart

Short & sweet today, friends. I’m home from my girls’ beach vacation and last night I felt incredibly blessed to open the back door to two excited dogs and a cheerful husband. What did I do to deserve such unconditional love? I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel and relax with friends. I’m also incredibly thankful to have a husband that holds down the fort and doubles the love for the dogs for a few days in my absence. I also got a 1am phone call, which can be a really good thing or a really bad thing, and thankfully it was excellent news! (More on that later- I promise!)

For now, I’m happy to be back at work, back in Ohio, and back to my side of the king-size bed, smothered by dogs and soothed by K’s breathing.

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Grateful Heart w/ Ember Grey