Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival

DragonSunday, December 4, the kids and I decided to check out the Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair Grounds (it’s in the Natural Resources area of the State Fair Grounds).  This special event runs through January 2, 2017.

The Crew

The kids (12 & 15) and I went to this event.  I had to drag them along to get them to go, but once there, they seemed to enjoy it. (When we were getting ready for bed, I thanked my 15-year-old son for going to the festival with me.  He replied “It really was pretty cool, other than the rain. — I had fun.”  You don’t get much better than that from a 15-year-old young man! )

What It Is

Ohio Chinese Lantern Festival boasts 39 beautiful lantern displays ranging from a 200 feet long illuminated dragon to glowing tulip-lined walk ways. The lanterns are created by hand using silk fabric, steel frames, and tens of thousands of LED lights. (http://www.ohiolanternfestival.com/)

There are tables of various things for sale from cheepy little light up stuff to hand crafted paper cutout cards. Its a little bit of a mix of things.

They have performances on the amphitheater stage. This was a small troupe of performers with some fun acts (juggling, acrobatics, dancing) and lasted about 20 minutes.

They have food and drinks available. They had an “American” station that had burgers, brats, fries, etc.  There was a “Chinese” station that had lo mein, fried wontons, rice, etc.  A “Sweets” station with fortune cookies, fried oreos, fried snickers.  And then a variety of drinks from Hot Cocoa to cider to beer to cocktails.

A Pandorama <-- clever!
– A Pandorama <– Clever! (Caption courtesy of the 12 year old)

Our Experience

I’ve had several people ask me “Was it worth it? It seemed expensive”.  To which I have replied a very non-committal  “eeeee…..yeah?!?”.  Depends on how you value this kind of thing.  I absolutely love lights and lighted exhibits.  This was also something new to Columbus and was quite different than other light exhibits at this time of year.  So, for me, yeah.. it was worth it.  Had the weather been a bit better it would have been better.

What I spent:

  • Parking – $5
  • Admission – $15 for me, $10 for each kid under 17 = $35 for us (They have a family 4 pack that is $40 for 2 adults &2 kids, which brings the cost per person down a bit. I’ve yet to find places that give single-parent families much of a break on these things. 🙂 )
  • Hot Cocoa – $3 each – $9 for us each to have one.  (They were a good size cup, so $3 seemed pretty reasonable.)
  • Total: $49

If you have a bunch of “I want.. i want… i want” people in your group, food could get expensive here as could the lure of the little toys and what not.

What we did:

We walked around the lights and really enjoyed them, it was nice variety of shapes and scenes.  It probably took us just about 30 minutes to walk thru and take pictures.  We then had to wait about 30 minutes to see the 6:30 performance. All told, we were there just under 2 hours but a lot of that was spent standing around the food area just waiting.  If the weather was nice, we may have walked back through the lights, but it was a chilly rainy night.

We watched the performances and all really enjoyed that.  We had a lot of “wow.. how’d he do that!?!?” moments.  It’s no Cirque du Soleil, but it was enjoyable.

Our Tips

Everything is outdoors.  Only the food area had a covering, but it is very open.  Dress for the weather!!! We were wet and cold when we left.  The amphitheater seating is all completely open to the elements.  If it’s been raining or snowing, you may want to throw a poncho or plastic bag in your pocket before you go so that you have something dry to sit on.

We spent a lot of time waiting around for the performance.  If you can get there shortly before the 6:30 or 8:00 performance, then walk through the lights after you could better manage the time.  My kids just started to get on each other’s nerves before the show.  I noticed families with little kids having the same issue as they were waiting.dsc_0456

Final Thoughts

For me, this was a fun evening out without too much time commitment or pressure.  It would make a good week night outing if there isn’t much homework. The fair grounds are relatively close and easy to get to.  I really love lights, so it was very enjoyable for me.  Both kids seemed to enjoy everything other than the weather. We call it a win.


Checking out Olentangy Mini-Golf

Mini-GolfTo celebrate the start of summer vacation, the kids and I headed over to the new Olentangy Mini-Golf to check it out.   This new Mini-Golf course opened in Delaware county near 23 & Lewis Center road.

The facility and course are still pretty new which makes it quite nice.  Everything was clean and tidy and in great shape. I saw on Facebook that they had just recently gotten their landscaping done and it looked quite nice.  They have a couple small, decorative houses throughout that are parts of different holes.  The kids found those fascinating to look at.  And we all three thought they did a really nice job with the decoration; very cute, not tacky.


They have two 18-hole courses that you can play – Diamond & Ruby.  When we paid we were told the Diamond course is a little harder, but our scores showed differently.  We did much better on that one.  The holes on the course are more mini-golf than putt-putt; in that they have bumps and angles and things to go around, but you’re not shooting through any moving windmills or opening/closing things.  There are a couple holes where you hit into a top hole and the pipe feeds it down to a bottom level.  The final hole on each course is hitting up a bit of an incline into a large open space.  Both the kids and I found this disappointing that there was no actual hole to hit into and to try for one last hole-in-one.


I did find their prices a bit higher than I would have expected when we got there, but I’ve apparently not played mini-golf in a while. A quick search  shows them to be on par (get it!) with other places in the area and are a little lower than Magic Mountain.

  • Olentangy Mini-golf: Adult $7, Child $5
  • Magic Mountain “Adventure golf”” Adult $8, Child $5.50
  • Westerville Mini-golf: Adult $6, Child $4


Our Tips:

A second round of 18-holes is an additional $2. They have this presented at the counter as “1 round for $7, or 2 for $9” and I got the impression that they wanted you to decide up front if you were playing 1 or 2 rounds.  They were not busy at all when we were there, and the guy at the counter said “If you decide on a 2nd round, just let me know and I’ll just charge you the $2.”  I’m glad we went that way. We played 18 and decided we wanted the second round.  By about the 10th hole of the 2nd round we were getting tired and the kids were crabby.  Little ones may not make it for a 2nd round. I’d ask if you can add the 2nd round at the $2 rate if you decide to play more.

There was not a lot of shade on this course, on a super hot, sunny Columbus day, it might be a little brutal.

They had a few concessions, but not much.

What it Costs Us:

We ended up being 2 adults and 1 child.  My oldest is getting too old for child prices anymore, darn.

  • First round: $19 ($7 x 2, $5)
  • Second round: $6 ($2 x 3)
  • Total: $25

We were there for about 90 minutes total playing all 36 holes.  There was hardly anyone else there, so we didn’t have to wait at all.

Final Thoughts:

Nice, compact, clean & new, not terribly expensive overall.  Good way to get out and do something without a super long time or cost commitment.  We’d certainly go again.



Learning to Curl at the Columbus Curling Club

2013-01-02 21.08.51My first adventure for 2013 was learning to curl.

My best friend is a member of the Columbus Curling Club.  She let me know when their Learn to Curl clinics came up, so I signed up to take the one on January 2.

The clinic was $25 and scheduled for 2 hours on a week night.  We spent the first hour learning the basics of how to deliver the stone, how to sweep, and the basic rules of the game.  I tell you, this sport is more involved than I ever expected. You have to know which way your handle is going, how the stone will curl, how much curl you want, where to aim for, what speed to deliver, and how hard to sweep or not sweep.  Not to mention all the new terms (Hog lines, Houses, Skips, ends) and rules (apparently if someone touches a stone, something bad happens).  For the second hour we played a couple of ends (sort of like innings in baseball).  This brought all the skills we practiced together and it started to make a bit more sense.

My session had 11 students and 4 instructors.  This worked out very well.  There are 4 players on a curling team, so our class was able to break into 4 teams – each with 2 or 3 students and 1 instructor. This provided a lot of individual attention in the instruction portion of the class.  We had students ranging from college kids to retirees and everyone seemed to have fun.  After a curling game, it is customary for the winning team to buy the losing team a beer.  Most of the students seemed to stick around and enjoy a drink together adding to fun.  This stretched the night out to 3 hours, a little late on a work night,  but was well worth it.

To continue on with curling at this club, you join the instructional league next.  This league meets weekly for several weeks and costs $100.  After that you are allowed to become a member of the club which was just less than $500 a season. All the details are under Membership Prices on their website.  This was a little rich for my wallet right now, so I won’t be signing up for the Instructional League this year.  But it was definitely fun and I’ll go Curl whenever I can.

Tips from this adventure:

  • Go to the Learn to Curl site to register for a session or be notified of upcoming sessions.
  • Dress comfortably. They recommended sweat pants and tennis shoes.  Most people had on track pants and sweatshirts and a jacket.  It was rather chilly on the ice.  I had my thin running shoes on and my feet got really cold by the end.  Thin gloves and a hat were also helpful.
  • Bring a few dollars for a beer (or soda) afterwards.  Most beers were $3 and they had an excellent selection.


The County Fair

Mommy Points: 2

Every county and small town in the Midwest has some sort of fair or festival.  Between mid-June and mid-October, every county in Ohio has its fair. You can find a listing for them here: 2011 Ohio Fairs.   These are excellent opportunities for an inexpensive outing with the kids.  Depending on the fair you go to, there should be a little something for everyone.

For our outing, we chose the Crawford County fair which is in Bucyrus, Ohio (home of the bratwurst festival!…another fun outing).  My mother is from the area and there is a horse race run in honor of my grandfather, so we had a reason to travel.  Several of my family joined us for part of the day.

We decided to make an afternoon of it, and that was just about the right amount of time.  I did run short of cash, and you HAVE to have cash for a fair.  Otherwise, it worked out well.

We saw a small sampling of animals (cows, chickens, sheep, llamas, and horses); paid $1/each for 9 holes of putt-putt, ate some fair food, watched horse races, and rode the few rides they had.  A county fair is a so much smaller than the state fair, it is easy to do it all in 3 – 4 hours.

We lucked out that a) kids under 8 are free and b) it was 1/2 off admission day…so we paid a grand total of $6 for the three of us to get in the gate.  Parking was free.  Food was generally reasonably priced but even at reasonable, it cost us about $35 for lunch, drinks, and snacks through the day.  We took our water bottles with us so we didn’t have to pay for bottled water (and I have a thing against plastic bottles anyway) which helped.  My brother-in-law paid $9/each for the three kids (my two and his son) to have unlimited rides.  This worked out to be a pretty good deal.  Each ride was $2 – $3 dollars, and they rode 5 or 6 each.

What to bring:

  • SUNSCREEN AND WATER! Ohio is Hot Hot Hot in the summer, and you will be in dusty, dirty, and blacktopped areas.  Air conditioned buildings are rare at most fairs.  Be careful not to over heat
  • CASH – Visa is not really everywhere you want to be.  ATMs are the ones that charge you and arm and a leg to get your money out
  • Camera
  • Backpack – we collected a lot of coloring books and odds and ends of things, having a backpack to put them in really helped so no one had to carry them

Kid Review:

“Really Good” and “really fun”.  They both really liked the rides the most.  I liked that they got to see some farm animals up close and they learned about worms and how they help the dirt, so there was a little education there.  

Mommy Review:

I do love fairs, but I know they aren’t for everyone.  The Crawford county fair is a decent one, but if my family weren’t there I probably wouldn’t travel up for it.  I did really enjoy watching the kids and playing putt-putt with Eric while Kira played photographer for us.