Places to Go (Vacation) - Cleveland, Part I - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

(wow, a picture of me, so rare these days)

My mom lives in the Chicago suburbs and we live 700 miles away in Arlington, so for spring break she suggested we meet in the middle. Originally, this plan did not thrill me. Even my husband, who attended to college in Cleveland, asked "is there anything to do there?" Surprisingly, there is. Quite a lot. So much that we could have stayed for two weeks and not seen all i wanted to see. I can't wait to go back.

We spent two days of our vacation touring Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which resides about 20 miles south of Cleveland. This place has it all - waterfalls, lakes, a beautiful trail system bordering the Ohio & Erie canal (similar to DC's C&O canal trails), a beaver marsh, a scenic railroad, and more. After two days of exploring, we only skimmed the surface of what the park has to offer. In the summer, the park includes Hale Village "an expansive outdoor living history museum", sounds awesome.


For our first Cuyahoga adventure, we visited the large and beautiful Brandywine Falls. Nothing like a waterfall to kick-off the kids' excitement for outdoor adventuring (though my mom's dog, Murphy, seemed a little turned off by the noise and spectacle of it all).


Then we checked out the Boston Store Visitor Center, which had a lot of displays on boats. Along with a box of REAL boat-making tools. I cannot begin to explain T's excitement; I hovered over him fearing a missing eye (yup, this is where the term "helicopter parenting" stems from).


Finally, we finished out day one with a trip to the Beaver Marsh. We didn't see any beavers, but a goose flew right next to F. She's convinced he intuited that she "really likes animals."


On our second day at the park we rode on Cuyahoga Valley's scenic train. On the upside, the scenery really was quite phenomenal, especially all the water (the tracks border the canal). On the downside, three hours on a train leads to a little (or a lot) of cabin fever. In all fairness, we could have departed at the scenic town of Peninsula, but since the Peninsula stop occurs early in the ride we feared we'd miss out on "the experience" (plus, all the kids just looked so "contained" and content, that i didn't have the energy to leave).

For parents with older kids (or people with no kids), I'd advise combining a long bike ride on the canal with a return ride on the train - a lot of other passengers did this and it looked like a lot of fun. Maybe in a few years.


It felt so wonderful to see my mom, especially when she played hangman with F while I zoned out the window.


The train provides earphone sets which document the history of the canal and the park. I found the stories and music interesting, but after awhile P grew "bored, bored, bored." Though after we departed she called the train "the best adventure ever!" What changed? I let her play with my iphone during the return trip. The rewards of lazy parenting.

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