Winter Water Fun

You never know what kind of weather we will get in Columbus. Sometimes December is filled with oddly warm days that juxtapose with the wreaths and Christmas lights, and other days it is so bitter outside that you can't possibly send the kids out to play in the snow. Too warm to sled...too cold for snowmen. If only there was a place to go where kids can splash around safely in a warm pool and burn off some of their energy...

Enter, Goldfish Swim School. I know you've heard me mention it before, but our partnership is growing and I am loving it more each week. This winter, Goldfish is the perfect place to bring the kids to beat boredom and strengthen their water safety skills.

I spoke with Lisa Armitage, owner of the Goldfish location in Dublin, about the benefits of year-round swimming as opposed to the standard week-long summer stint.

Q: Why do you recommend children do year-round lessons as opposed to swim lessons in the summer?

A:  Swimming is a valuable skill that every child should develop and master – especially since drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death in children ages one to four. Oftentimes, parents will enroll their child in a several week-long swim class in their community with the intention of having their child learn the basics of technique and water safety. However, once that child graduates from that course, they will no longer practice those basics and in some cases, they may even forget what they learned. At Goldfish Swim School, our goal is to ensure that every child masters swimming so that it becomes second nature to them. We achieve this through our perpetual membership-based model for lessons. This means that parents sign their child up for lessons that continue every week until the child graduates from Goldfish’s curriculum. This model allows the child to learn at his or her own pace and develop as a strong swimmer. 

Q: What kinds of features does Goldfish have that would make a cold day more comfortable for little swimmers?

Goldfish Swim School is reinventing the swim lesson experience for children and families. Our locations' custom-built pools are just four feet deep, kept at a comfortable and shiver-free 90 degrees and are maintained by a state-of-the-art water purification system. Each facility’s beach resort-like atmosphere features private changing and restrooms, a snack bar and pro shop and a blow-dry station for parents to help children dry their hair following their lessons. Our overall goal is to help children feel safer and more comfortable so they can succeed in the water. Our atmosphere and unique instruction style accomplish this. 

Q: Are there any other swim opportunities for families besides weekly swim lessons?

In addition to weekly swim lessons for kids ages 4 months to 12 years, Goldfish Swim School hosts weekly Family Swims M-Th from 12-1pm, and Fridays from 6:30-8pm, private parties and our Goldfish Swim Team. When children complete the Goldfish Swim School pro-level curriculum, they can advance into our Goldfish Swim Team classes. This course allows students who are interested in pursuing swimming competitively to grow their understanding of teamwork and build their endurance in the water. We see many of our students who graduate from this course move on to community and school competitive teams – and they do so wonderfully.  

Q: Do you have any exciting events this winter?

A: We have a lot of exciting events going on this winter!  
Weekly family swims (M-Thursday from 12-1pm, Fridays 6:30-8pm), Grand Opening Party for Westerville, Member Appreciation Week January 10-16, 2016, Family Night Out (Dec  18, Jan 15, Feb 12, March 25), We offer FREE Preschool Programs for community Groups:
Community Service Initiatives:  
Our December Project is Sweet Dreams and Stories (Pajamas and books for Brightside Academy and Muha Memorial Foundation).

January we will partner with My Very Own Blanket who supply blankets for children entering the foster care system in Central Ohio and surrounding counties. Our families and staff will be encouraged to donate supplies or make blankets to donate. I am planning on a blanket making party late in the month.

February we will be collecting socks for homeless families.

We would like to give you the opportunity to try Goldfish for yourselves. They have graciously donated a gift basket to our readers that includes:
2 months of group lessons
5 family swim passes
Goldfish frisbee
Goldfish water bottle
Goldfish knit hat
Bubbles plush toy

To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below. The winner will be contacted on Monday, 12/7.

Holidays at Franklin Park

We had the perfect excuse to avoid shopping today (besides, no childcare...taking both kids shopping? Nope.)  Franklin Park Conservatory kicked off their Merry and Bright holiday activities today, and it was actually warm enough to really enjoy playing outside and trying a few new things.

I have said it a million times before, but a membership to FPC is a fabulous gift idea for a family with young children. Their children's programming is fantastic and my kids love the freedom/safety of playing here.

Today's special event was rising a horse-drawn wagon to the brand new Wells Barn (which is amazing. Someone please have a wedding here.) to build gingerbread houses.

We looked around the Conservatory for a few minutes, but then made out way to the wagon line before it got super long.

The kids loved the short ride over, and I loved that it was free with our membership. The men who facilitated the ride were kind and helpful.

Then, gingerbread time! I was amazed at the organization of this undertaking. We used to build them in my classroom and it was way too hectic. Loved how they had everything portioned out and ready to go. The base of the house was already made, and a lovely staff member followed us with a tray to hold all our candy. Just a note, each house was $3.

I had no intention of Rhys building an actual house. He ate his graham crackers and we gave the rest of the supplies to the family next to us, as Larkyn got to work.

Usually royal icing does not taste very good, but she couldn't stop eating it must be good?

After our gingerbread construction, we explored the outside of Franklin Park on this perfect weather day.

I may have missed all the sales, but I'm not sure I really care...

Annual trip to the Hills

We started our annual trip to Hocking Hills with our wedding on 11.18.12. From there, we took a summer trip with Larkyn, an anniversary trip by ourselves (well, Rhys was kicking away in there) and then this year, all four of us made the trip.

We chose a different cabin from previous trips because we needed one more bed. The new cabin was wide open and perfect for the kids to run around. There was a walkout basement to the hot tub, and one bedroom was down there. Matt, Rhys and I slept in the loft, as usual because it seems like every cabin EVER has a loft (not ideal for noise level with a sleeping baby, but cool).

I won't pretend it was all relaxing and refreshing, because we all know that vacationing with young children is fun but really just real life in a different setting. They got restless inside the cabin and in the car, but loved every minute in between those times. Next time, we are staying as close as we can to the caves (maybe IN the caves?!) to avoid the long car rides. And we will bring a lot more toys with us!  Some of our favorite moments...

Vacation food is always good. Lucky Charms > everything. 

All smiles until those jets come on, then it's all over.

 I tried bringing lots of quiet activities, but have come to the conclusion that my kids are not "quiet activity" kids. This lasted 46 seconds, max.

 We have a Pavlovian response to cabins. Cabins + cinnamon rolls and she knows it. 

Sunrise off the back deck.

 Thanks goodness for this pond...

 Throwing rocks is the besssssst.

 Refused her coat 97% of the time.

 Getting so big and I can't take it!

 We made it to one park (Ash Cave) and then our day out kind of fell apart when Verizon had no service to get us from cave to cave. Note to self...paper map. 

 I love Ash Cave because it can be as easy (like this) or as hard as you want it to be. You can take that staircase up to a ledge (dangerous without hand-holding) and go all the up to the top of the cave on a trail. Not today, kids.

 The largest recessed cave in Ohio. And some cute boys in it, too.

 I have pictures of Larkyn here 3 years ago, playing in this waterfall in the summer. 

 She's getting a little braver. 

 This face should have signaled "All done" for the day. 

 Buuuuuut, he was born to this mama who doesn't waste an entire day indoors. Love me some Christmas Treasures...

 "Oh, mom. This one's cute" (said 167 times). Love it.

 I put on her new hat and she went into mannequin mode. This was right before the cold rain.

 But that did not stop her from javelin-throwing cat tails into the pond and then seeing how they explode ALL OVER when they get wet. 

I'm gonna get ya...

All I wanted was a photo of the four of us. This was on our way out to head home, and Rhys and I weren't in the mood for real pants. So, PJs won and I got my photo. Self-timer for the win!

A few things about this new cabin (Hidden Hills): I LOVED that the property had a private pond and acres of privacy. It seemed brand new on the inside (photos on their site) and had the perfect amount of room. It was close to downtown Logan, so we could easily make a food run. It was also really well-priced. However, there were a lot of annoying little surprises here and there. No blankets (sheets and a quilt on the bed), wasps kept appearing, and there was nothing for baking (cookie sheets/pans), which is pretty standard. There was no manual of how to use anything (also usually standard) so we never made a fire, and no maps. Just little things that we have become accustomed to that make the trip a little more like home. Also, the front porch steps are SUPER dangerous and Rhys immediately face-planted the first time he tried them while we were unpacking. There are pros and cons to every cabin...this one will be perfect with a few more thoughtful touches.

I actually can't wait to go back. Do you have a favorite cabin in Hocking Hills?

Family Day trips from Columbus (Winter edition)

It won’t be long before we all start to tire of the same old indoor experiences close to home. We teamed up with Christa of My Ohio Adventure to get out of the rut for the day. If you feel like packing some snacks and bundling everyone up for a drive, we’ve got you covered for the best day trips from Columbus. Most of these include indoor experiences, but some will require some snowsuits and boots and a sense of adventure!

1. Hocking Hills (Logan)
  • Most kid-friendly trails: Ash Cave (pictured below), Old Man’s Cave, Conkle’s Hollow lower rim. Of course, you know your kids best and if you can’t trust them close to edges or they won’t hold your hand, stick to Ash Cave or wear them in a carrier. Ash and Conkle's are the best, as they are paved or flat in most areas. The pavement turns to sand, which then turns into steps and a trail if you want to go that far.

2. Loudonville

Both Mohican and Malabar have a lot to offer, and could easily be day trips on their own. That said, you can also shorten your stay at both and easily see each of these State Parks in one day trip.
    • Hike the ¾ mile (one-way) Pleasant Hill Trail for a relatively easy and flat hike along the river.
    • The park’s highlights are extremely accessible by car. The park map lists different stops on their driving tour, including the Clearfork Gorge overlook, the Covered Bridge, Discovery Forest, and the Memorial Shrine.  
    • Where to eat: The park has plenty of picnic areas, so pack your lunch and enjoy it under the trees.

    • Malabar Farm is just about 15-20 minutes from Mohican, so an easy add on to a day trip. Here you can go for a short hike, tour the grounds on a wagon ride, pet and feed the animals in the barn, tour Louis Bromfield’s home, hunt for geocaches, eat in the restaurant...and if all that isn’t enough, drive up to overlook on Mount Jeez, located across from the park, to get views over the farm and surrounding areas.
    • In December they’ll be hosting Candlelight Tours of the house, with fresh baked cookies and hot cider.
    • Things are very quiet (meaning closed) here on Mondays, so if you’re looking to do the various tours, plan on coming a different day.

3. Yellow Springs
  • Youngs: The farm is very much alive and running in the Winter, and here is a run-down of their winter schedule, courtesy of Mr. Dan Young himself…
    • The Golden Jersey Inn is open daily except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
    • The Dairy Store is open everyday except Christmas Day.
    • The Farm animal Visiting Area is open daily from about 10 AM to at least 6pm, most days later to maybe 9pm.  You can see the cows being milked daily from approximately 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM.
    • The Christmas Tree Farm (a choose and cut operation) is open daily from 9am to 6pm starting the day after Thanksgiving to a week before Christmas.  This is a very popular family tradition activity - sort of like the pick your own pumpkins - it’s fun to go out in the field and find that perfect Christmas tree to take home and decorate.
    • Jan 15-18, we celebrate our 147 years of our farm.  We have lots of specials; one dip cones are $1.47, kid’s meals are $1.47, Cheeseburgers are $1.47, even games of miniature golf are $1.47 (every once in awhile, the weather works out for this!).  We also have a souvenir quart milk bottle that goes with a special sundae we do for this birthday party.
    • Jan 25-Jan 31 - is our annual “Doo Your Moo” event - where you can go into the Dairy Store and buy a one dip cone, give us your best moo, with feeling!, and you can earn an extra dip of ice cream.  At The Golden Jersey Inn, you give us a good Moo at the end of your meal, and you can earn a one dip sundae.
    • Feb 26-29 - is the End of Winter Hot Fudge Sundae Sale - we offer great prices on hot fudge sundaes for the weekend - and it’s one day longer this year since it’s a leap year.  We do any sundae really, for this, but I put emphasis on the hot fudge as it is the #1 seller for toppings (and it’s my favorite, too!)
    • During Nov to mid-Dec the miniature golf course and the heated and covered driving range is open Fri, Sat and Sun from 11am to 5pm, then closes until the beginning of March.

    • At Christmas, 3.5 twinkling lights illuminate the mill and surrounding areas. Cross the historic covered bridge to see the mill and gorge in all their glory. The display starts the day after Thanksgiving and runs through December 31st. Here you will also find a Miniature Village, Santa Museum, and a Toy Collection - perfect for the kids. Admission is $10, but free for kids 6 and under.

Dayton holds enough activities for an entire post of its own, so we decided to stick with just one of its most famous and well-known indoor attractions. Dads and little airplane and space enthusiasts will have lots to explore, and best of is FREE!
  • Monthly Family Days revolve around a theme and allow for interactive and educational experiences like satellite-building and making robot hands.
  • The museum is in the process of a major expansion, so check carefully to make sure everything you want to see is available,

5. Mansfield
At about an hour north of Columbus off 71, Mansfield is reasonably close and convenient, and with lots to do there, a great place to check out this winter!
  • Ohio Bird Sanctuary: The Ohio Bird Sanctuary is over 90 acres of hiking trails, live bird of prey displays, and a walk-through songbird aviary. Purchase a cup of feed worms in the Visitor Center so the kids can hand feed the birds!
  • Kingwood Center Garden: A 47 acre former estate garden. After Thanksgiving they will reopen for their Christmas at Kingwood event, when they will host a wide range of acitivites from light displays to live music.
  • Richland Carrousel Park: The Richland Carrousel is the first hand-carved wooden carrousel to be built in the U.S. since the 1930s. It’s indoor, making it an ideal year-round place to visit. Mom and dad can relax in the rocking chairs while the kids ride, while enjoying the sounds of the Stinson Band Organ, made in Bellefontaine.  
  • Coney Island Inn: World famous Coneys, hand dipped ice cream, and homemade pies!

6. Canal Winchester/Lithopolis
Close enough to not be a hassle, but feels a million miles from the city (in a good way!) when you’re there.
  • Slate Run Living Historical Farm: Slate Run gives visitors a first-hand experience of what life would have been like on an 1880s farm in Ohio. You can walk through the barns and farmhouse, get up close to various farm animals, and see costumed staff working on their “chores” around the grounds. The farm offer various programs where families can help feed the animals, learn more about different activities that would have taken place on the farm, and more. See their website for upcoming events!
  • Das Kaffeehaus: Coffee for the adults, sweet German pastries for the kids (okay for the adults too!).
  • Fantasy Cupcake: Delicous cupcakes. That’s all you need to know! Actually you should know that they offer gluten free cake pops and sugar cookies daily, and gluten free cupcakes on Saturdays.  

7. Delaware
Delaware sits just far enough to our North that it could be considered a day trip, and an opportunity to discover a place you never knew was so close.
  • The Arts Castle is the Delaware County Cultural Arts Center, where they offer classes, a gift shop and a gallery of local work. Classes range from dance to ceramics, bereavement support, and everything in between for age 1 and up.
  • Perkins Observatory has public programs during the daytime and at night (advance ticket purchase is reccomended) that would be a great way to end your day in Delaware. Star-gazing, observatory tours, and even rocket-launching sounds like something a little different that older children might love!
  • Delaware Preservation Parks consists of ten parks and trails, and the farm at Gallant Farm Preserve. Many public programs are held at the farm and at the other parks, giving families an opportunity to experience farm life, see monthly model railroad exhibits, and explore the parks on their own. Shale Hollow (pictured below) is an easy hike for little ones.

8. Springfield
Springfield is located near Dayton, so you can easily add these stops to a Dayton trip, if you’re up for it! That said, Springfield has a lot to offer, so worth spending a day. Here are a few options of places to check out.
  • Hartman Rock Garden was created by Ben Hartman when he found himself unemployed during the depression. Using stones, broken pottery and mirrors, he transformed his garden into another world, full of stone houses, cathedrals, castles, and more. After his death, his wife maintained his work and added flowers throughout. The garden is still maintained today, and is free to visit (though donations are encouraged to support) 365 days a year. A great place for kids to roam and let their imaginations run wild.
  • Heritage Center Museum is located in a former city market and hall, built in 1890, that has been transformed into a museum. The museum honors the history of the Heartland and the Historic national Railroad. Free to visit, it’s worth checking out!
  • Mobil Dog’s Cafe sounds like the perfect place to grab a bite after your adventures. They serve up burgers and hotdogs in a diner setting.

9. West Liberty
  • The Ohio Caverns are a great spot to adventure in the winter because the caves stay a reasonable 54 degrees year round. With the crazy cold winters we’ve had the last few years, 54 degrees sounds amazing! The tour through the caverns is on a concrete path, making it easier and safer for kids than it otherwise might be.
  • Plank’s Pizza Aside from the standard pizza choices, they offer a dessert pizza with buckeyes. Wow.

10. Zanesville/Newark
Straight out 70, you’ll find some indoor fun at these two places and make it back home in time for dinner.
  • The Works Science Museum- An official affiliate of the Smithsonian, The Works (Ohio Center for History, Art and Technology) spans an entire city block. Young children will love the Interactive Science Lab, where they can explore a variety of fun experiments with sound, environment, inventing, and several more. There is a Tyke Lab for ages 6 and under to interact with Pretend play items and amenities that are just their size.  Besides the Science Labs, there are history exhibits that take kids back in time, an art gallery, a glass studio, wood and print shop, and a science theater.
  • Goumas Confections- This candy shop has been serving Newark since 1911, and has everything from classic chocolates and caramel apples to gummies and chocolate dipped wine bottles.

And a very special bonus this holiday season...
11. Sugar Creek:
  • The Farm at Walnut Creek- They will be open by appointment only for horse drawn sleigh rides through the countryside. Experience The Farm at Walnut Creek during the winter months in a two Percheron horse open sleigh! Whether it is a quiet romantic moonlit ride, or a family, church or corporate outing, the sleigh ride will be a “winter wonderland” experience in Amish Country.  As you arrive, we will greet you in our parking lot with the sleigh piled high with blankets to keep you warm. We will sleigh past the horse barn then on to the rolling hills of our 120 acres.  Your breath will be taken away by the peacefulness and serenity of the area. Many of the animals; such as, llamas, American bison, yak, deer, elk etc... will come to the sleigh allowing you to feed  them.  As the ride continues, you will visit giraffes, zebras, Brahmas, watusi and cockatoos who are spending the winter in a heated barn. When your ride is complete you will have the opportunity to stop in the main house for hot cocoa, coffee, or tea. Photo below courtesy of the farm.
  • The availability of sleigh rides depends on snow and temperature conditions.
  • While in Sugar Creek, you can make a stop to see the world’s largest cuckoo clock and grab lunch at one of the many Amish restaurants and bakeries. 

We hope you have a few new ideas for those days when you are ready to get out of town and try something new. Enjoy!
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