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.   

A Night with the Crew

Mommy Points: 2

We are fortunate to have an MLS Soccer Team close to home.  The Columbus Crew is even a pretty good team, as far as US Soccer Teams go.  My kids both play soccer and enjoy it, so The Crew is generally always a hit with them.

Unfortunately for the Crew/Fortunately for you – the games all seem to have light attendance, so you aren’t generally dealing with long lines for the bathroom or food.  Traffic getting out of there can be a bit slow, but really it isn’t terrible.  Before the games start there are generally lots of activities going on right inside the gates – bounce houses, places to kick a soccer ball, entertainment.  So, allow some pre-game time.  After a lot of the games, kids can go down to the field and kick balls at the goal.  This takes a little time and is a long line, but it is kind of cool to be on the big field kicking a soccer ball.

Soccer is played from about the beginning of March until the end of October, but not a lot of games are at home.  Check the schedule early in the season and make a plan to go to a game.  I’ve also put games that are possibilities for us on my calendar so that i have them as ideas if we have nothing else to do that day.


On this trip, Kira won 4 tickets at a soccer camp, so our entrance was free.   Online tickets are $25 – $50 depending on where you sit.  You can often find coupons at grocery stores or through special deals.  Games don’t come anywhere close to selling out, so buy tickets at the gate and avoid some of the fees.

Parking was $10 (cash).  Food is ‘Stadium Food’ prices = $$$$.  You can’t carry in any food.  So, eat before you go and just suck it up, this is going to cost you.  A bottle of water is $4..just to give you an idea.  There are a couple of souvenir stands as well, if you want an expensive token of your visit.

What to bring:

  • All bags are searched when you enter.  I typically try to travel light, just my camera and wallet so that I reduce the hassle at the gate.
  • If you go in the spring or fall, it gets colder than you think in the stands.  If you go in the summer, you may be sitting in full sun.  Prepare for weather accordingly.
  • They ID everyone who buys beer, so make sure your ID is handy if you are going to drink, even if you are well over 21.

Kid review:

The kids love going to the games.  Kira really doesn’t watch the game at all, but Eric watches ever moment of it then talks about it for days afterwards.

Mommy review:

I do enjoy going to sporting events, but the cost kills me.  The Crew stadium is generally pretty clean, bathrooms are plentiful, and the lines are short for food unless you are at 1/2 time.  There isn’t a lot of variety in the food, but the basics are there.  Overall, this is an enjoyable evening for me as well.

The Scioto Mile

Mommy Points: 2

Saturday we decided to stop down at the new The Scioto Mile park that opened. We were downtown to run a 5K race, and this new park in Downtown Columbus just opened up. So, we thought we’d check it out.  We were quite impressed!!

We stayed mainly at the Bicentennial Park end of the mile.  This location has a bunch of huge fountains for the kids to run in and get soaking wet.  You’ll want to bring towels, suits, and a change of clothes when you go.  I was fine letting my kids run freely, but it would be easy to lose site of little ones here.  I was able to find an on-street parking spot at a meter.  $1.60 got me just over 2 hours of parking, but we only stayed about 30 minutes.  The kids got worn out running in the fountains after running the race earlier in the day.  There are public restrooms near the fountains. We didn’t need to go in, but no one seemed to be complaining about the conditions when they walked out.

There is also a restaurant/bar at the park.  It is being touted as ‘family friendly’ but seemed a bit pricey from the menu i saw – more of a splurge meal than a regular stop.  Some friends that went down for dinner later in the evening said the food was “good… not great but pretty good”.

From Bicentennial Park, you can walk North for quite a ways (I assume it’s a mile 😉 ) along the promenade.  There are other fountains (just to look at), nicely planted planters, benches and some swinging benches along the way.   There are also a few spots to stop and look out at the river… granted, the Scioto River isn’t the nicest river in the world.  Keep in mind, as far North as you go, you have to come back to the car, so don’t get too far away when the kids start whining that they want to go home.

This is definitely on our “Go Back” list.  The next time, more prepared.  We are thinking of a Downtown Day on our next staycation week.  It would be easy to add in the Santa Maria, Cosi, The Columbus Commons,  or many of the other downtown attractions.

The Mile is a free attraction.  Parking downtown will vary depending on where you park.  The meter on the street seem pretty reasonable.  I lucked upon a spot, so didn’t look too hard for cheap parking. If you want to eat in the restaurant, it looks a bit pricey.  There is lots of green space to have a picnic.

Things to take:

  • Swim Suits, Towel, Change of Clothes if you’re going to let them in the fountains
  • Picnic lunch or money for the restaurant
  • A wagon or stroller if there is a chance they won’t walk back

 Kid Review:

This was a hit! They really liked running in the water for a little bit.  Neither kid (Age 6 & 9) was thrilled about the walk along the promenade, but they were worn out. They definitely want to go back.

Mommy Review:

I really enjoyed this new park.  It will be nicer when the construction on the Rich St bridge is finished.

The large center fountain
Kids playing in the spray

Evening at the beach….

Mommy Points: 3

Some nights, after a long day of work and day camp, none of us have the energy to even think about dinner, let alone make it.  Our summer time go-to is often a picnic at the beach...Alum Creek Beach.

OK…it’s not the Ocean or even a nice idyllic lake somewhere.  It’s Alum Creek.  It’s a central Ohio reservoir.  But it works.

If you have sandwich supplies (and the energy) pack a picnic dinner.  If not, a good option is the ready-made food section at the grocery store. Fried Chicken, a salad or two, some pre-cut fruit, and a package of cookies was less than $20 at  Kroger with some left overs (throw a cooler in the car before you go).  We packed our water bottles.  Or, be really lazy and go through the drive-thru.

Head to the beach area at Alum Creek, off of Lewis Center road.  There are plenty of picnic tables to be had, especially on a weeknight.  After eating, take a walk along the beach. Or, bring suits with you and go for a swim.  At the end of the beach nearest the entrance there is a small playground that is a little crappy, but works.

If you tire of the beach but the kids aren’t worn out, drive further down Lewis Center Road to the Below Dam Rec Area.  There aren’t a lot of benches around the playground, so you might actually have to play with the kids or at least stand around and watch them.  There are a couple of awesome playgrounds and climbing structures; two shelters with lots of picnic tables; and the STAIRS.  The stairs take you up to the top of the dam.  You can see the beach you were just at from the top. There is also a bit of a walking path along the top.  Be careful, on a windy day you will get blown around.

Beach is free, Pack a dinner to be cheap or buy something easy

Things to take:

  • Cooler if you have left overs after dinner
  • Swimming Gear if you are going to swim
  • If just walking, take a towel to dry off feet from the water
  • If you want to sit, a beach blanket will help (I keep a blanket in the car at all times, just in case)
  • Hand Sanitizer (there are restrooms at the beach, but they aren’t the nicest)

Kid Review:
One loved walking in the water, one didn’t like his feet getting ‘icky’ in the sand.  Overall both kids were really happy and had a great time.

Mommy Review:
Relaxing dinner with no cooking/clean-up; Fresh air and being active;  Close to home:  sold!  Worked out well for an evening get away.  I’m not sure I’d want to spend a full day here, but a few hours was great.

Walking in the water at the beach
Climbing at the Below Dam area