Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, National Park, National Parks, School, Sightseeing

William Howard Taft National Historic Site

The boys were off school for President’s Day, so we decided to head to the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.

I double-checked the park’s hours before we left, but when we got there, we were told the house was closing in 10 minutes for a staff meeting and wouldn’t be open until later that morning/early afternoon. We rushed through the house and then spent time in the Visitor Center.

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Nick got his Junior Ranger Badge. They had a neat package for the kids: a bag with the Junior Ranger program booklet, a pencil, a Junior Ranger badge sticker, and a William Howard Taft sticker. Once the booklet was completed, he turned it in to be sworn in and receive the plastic Junior Ranger badge.

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It was neat to see, especially since there is no admission fee for this Historic Site. I think we will go back again when we can spend more time in the house though and really read through everything.

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DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 2038 Auburn Ave, Cincinnati OH 45219 
  • HOURS: Grounds open sunrise to sunset. House/Visitor Center open daily 8:30am-4:30pm. (Some limited hours/holiday closures)
  • COSTS: Free
  • PARKING: Yes (small sized lot)
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 30 minutes+
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks Optional (as of March 2022)
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Food

Smale Pretzels

In a small building, located among a mix of houses, is a pretzel shop in Dayton, Ohio. Smales Pretzel Bakery offers a variety of pretzels, both hard and soft.

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The area in front of the counter is small, maybe enough to fit 4 or 5 people, but it’s a squeeze. There is a parking lot located behind the building, with spots for maybe 6 to 8 cars.

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You can also find these pretzels at the local Dorothy Lane grocery stores (an upscale Dayton grocery store). I will say that if you are planning to buy the frozen soft pretzels, they are about half the cost if you buy directly at the Smale store instead of the grocery store!

The boys enjoyed the hard pretzels, but my favorite was the warm soft pretzel. It is a denser dough, but nice and soft.

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing

Taft Museum of Art

Ben enjoys art museums, so we decided to check out one that we had not been to since we were kids, the Taft Museum of Art. Currently (February 2022), the house is under renovation and is not available to go through. Part of the collection has been moved to the connected Fifth Third Gallery. The rest of the collection was temporarily displayed at Union Terminal (aka the Cincinnati Museum Center, which is also a great place to visit). The house is set to reopen in June 2022, with the art collection restored to being showcased in the house.

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The museum is now offering free admission for their bicentennial, although a $10 donation is suggested. When we went in February, there were timed entries and you could reserve your spot online.

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The exhibits now have expanded information plaques, which we found very interesting. Since the collection is smaller right now, as not everything would fit in the event space, we were done in about an hour. They had several neat pieces, and we learned a few new things from the plaques.

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There is a small cafe and gift shop located there as well. During the warmer months, there is a great outdoor garden patio.

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We plan on going back after the house reopens. I’m sure it will be amazing with all the pieces back in place!

NOTE: There is a parking garage on the grounds, which is free with admission. When we went, there was some construction going on, so it was confusing to see the entrance. Coming from Pike Street, you want to stay to the left and turn left into the drive (looks like an alley) next to the house. Do NOT follow the road to the right, or you will have to drive around the block again.

DETAILS:

  • WHERE:  316 Pike Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202
  • HOURS: Friday 11am-4pm, Saturday and Sunday 11am-5pm (Through 5/21/22. Check website in May for updated hours.)
  • COSTS: Free/Currently a $10 donation is suggested (through 5/21/22). Normally admission is around $18.
  • PARKING: Yes (in garage on property–free, or city street parking/garages/lots–normally paid)
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1 hour+
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Need to show proof of vaccination ages 12+ or negative test, timed entry (2/2022)
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Food, YouTube Video Link

Milk Jar

We have been wanting to try a rolled ice cream for a while now. The timing and location just hadn’t worked out before. While we were out of town, a new place called the Milk Jar went in. The one location offered rolled ice cream!

They had a lot of different flavors. The rolled ice cream was $7. You pick a base flavor (we did Cookie Monster/cookies and cream) and then you can add unlimited toppings after it is rolled up. They start with a liquid base and pour it on the cold surface. An Oreo cookie was added and chopped up and then mixed with the freezing ice cream. The mixture was then spread thinly over the metal surface and rolled into strips.

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It was fun to watch and the ice cream was good, but at $7 for a bowl, it is a sometimes treat for us.

VIDEO: Rolled Ice Cream

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Food, Hiking, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

Jungle Jim’s Market

Anyone who lives near Cincinnati has heard of Jungle Jim’s. It is a grocery store. Now, if you are not from the area, you may be wondering asking “Sarah, why do I care about a grocery store?” The answer is that it is not just a grocery store. It is definitely an experience. If you are passing through or new to the area, please stop to check it out. I would recommend at least an hour or two, and if possible to go on a weekday. The weekends tend to get pretty crowded.

What makes Jungle Jim’s so unique? It is crazily decorated and offers food from around the world. It is home to the famous port-a-potty restrooms (Don’t worry, it’s just the door. The bathrooms are actually big and clean. (YouTube Video.).

There are two locations: Eastgate and Fairfield (both in Ohio). Both locations have the port-a-potty- bathrooms and the Jungle Jim’s movie that show how the store began (NOTE: as of February 2022, the Eastgate location still had the movie playing, but the Fairfield location had the movie room closed). Both locations offer an amazing variety of foods to discover. (Ben loves the winesap apples Jungle Jim’s carries. It is by far his favorite apple. The kids love finding new “weird” snacks to try.) However, each one is decorated differently (mostly because these are one-of-a-kind items). My personal favorite is the original location at Fairfield. Why? I think it has more things to see and to explore.

Eastgate has similar offerings of the Big Cheese, international food items, a big fish counter, and a large candy section. There are some larger decorations at the Eastgate location including an old beehive amusement park ride and a small Airstream RV. If we are just going to go for a quick grocery run, we might go to Eastgate.

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Fairfield has a monorail system installed along the side and front of the store. The cars are stationed amid a large snake-guarded building (located on the right side of the building when facing the front). Inside the store, you will find a large ship in the seafood department, a singing Elvis bear in the candy area, and a Robin Hood treasure-filled forest scene in the English food section where I like to pick up tea and Hobnob’s. They offer cooking classes and different tasting events. There is also a pressed penny machine there.

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Tours are also available for a fee and are by appointment only. We have not done one yet, but it does look fun! There is also a weekly podcast that broadcasts on Wednesdays.

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NOTE: Although both locations have very large parking lots, there is not really designated RV parking.

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

National Museum Of The United States Air Force

The Air Force Museum is located in Dayton, Ohio. It is also attached to an active military/Air Force base, The Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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Entrance to the museum is free, as is the parking. There are also free docent-led tours at set times during the day. There are options to buy extras like the simulation ride and VR experience. The museum is huge. It is spread out through 4 large hangers (all connected) and covers 19 acres (per their website). You will get your steps in for sure. We were there for 3 hours and rushed through it.

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The buildings begin at the museum entrance and start with the history of flight and early planes. You walk through a hallway dedicated to the Holocaust to the World War II exhibits. The second building contains Korean War and Southeast Asia. Building 3 is dedicated to the Cold War. Walking past a group of large missiles, you will enter building 4 where Research and Development and the Presidential planes are located. We were able to walk through several previous presidents’ planes, including JFK’s Air Force One.

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The way there were able to fit all these planes in the building is pretty darn amazing. Some of these planes are incredibly large and it must have been like trying to put together a 3D puzzle.

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It is a lot of reading, with a few kid stations throughout. Some of the more interactive exhibits were closed (COVID, I believe). I would definitely say this is a museum for older kids or at least ones who really enjoy looking at planes. There is not a lot for the younger kids to do, so they may get bored quickly. The museum is spread across 4 buildings/hangers, so it is a lot of walking. There are seats scattered throughout the buildings so that you can rest. Each building also has its own bathroom.

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The cafe is located on the second floor, but it was closed when we were there. The gift shop has a wide range of items. We found small postcards for $0.10 and large ones for $0.25.

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433
  • HOURS: 9:00 am-5:00 pm, M-U
  • COSTS: Free (simulation and VR cost extra)
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 3+ hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks required (as of March 2022)
  • Details correct at time of posting, please double check before you go.
Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, School, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

da Vinci Hands-On Exhibit: Machines In Motion

The boys and I went to the Air Force Museum (aka National Museum of the US Air Force) when they were off of school. The museum was getting a new exhibit ready to open; the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci. The best part was that it was going to be interactive and hands-on! (Click here for details.) The museum and this special exhibit are both free. The da Vinic exhibit runs through 5/8/22. Next week’s post will be about the rest of the Air Force Museum!

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We went back to the museum with Ben to see the da Vinci exhibit. It was newly opened, so we got there right when the museum opened and went straight back to the exhibit (in Building 4). There were a lot of different exhibits, almost all of them were ones we could interact with. A couple of the inventions were locked, but you could ask one of the museum staff/volunteers to demonstrate them for you.

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I think the designers and builders of these inventions did a great job. There were placards describing each item and what it was meant for. I think even younger kids would enjoy this exhibit, although they would need help with the pieces and supervision so they didn’t get any fingers pinched in the gears.

I think one of the coolest pieces was the tank, although it must have been extremely heavy.

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VIDEO: da Vinci Machines In Motion

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 1100 Spaatz Street, Wright-Patterson AFB, OH 45433 (Dayton, OH area)
  • HOURS: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, daily
  • COSTS: Free
  • PARKING: Yes (free)
  • BATHROOM: Yes
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1+ hour
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks required (as of 3/2/22)
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Hiking, Sightseeing

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park

The boys and I went to Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park in Hamilton, Ohio a couple of years ago over summer break. Ben had never been, so he and I went last month to explore. Now, it is winter in Ohio and it was a windy cold day. We didn’t get to explore quite as much as we wanted due to icey spots and the cold wind. I would definitely recommend going in the Spring/Summer/Fall for the most enjoyment. They do have several really neat pieces! There are a few walking trails in the park as well, although we have not explored them yet.

After entering the park, follow the drive to the visitor center building where you can pay for your admission and rent a golf cart (they call them art carts) if desired. You can walk or drive around the park. There are parking spaces close to many of the sculptures.

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DETAILS:

  • WHERE: 1763 Hamilton Cleves Road Hamilton, OH 45013
  • HOURS: Park hours Sunday to Saturday 9:00am to 5:00pm. Museum Monday to Sunday 12:00pm to 5:00pm.
  • COSTS: $8/adults, $3/children (6-12). Optional golf cart rental $20/first hour (then $15/hour).
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes (portalets are the only available ones in winter)
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 1-3 hours
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: n/a
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Food

Swensons Drive-In

My cousin Claire asked us to stop by this restaurant in Anderson and give them a try. Swensons is an old-fashioned drive in (kind of like Sonic or A&W). There is not an eat-in area. You find your perfect parking spot, making sure the front of your car is facing the building. This is important, because you turn on your headlights to signal to a carhop that you are ready to order. After ordering, turn your lights off. You can turn them back on to signal them to come get your tray.

We tried a few different things from the menu: coleslaw, double cheeseburger, hamburger (for the kid who won’t eat cheese), fried Bologna sandwich, fried zucchini, potato tweezers. For drinks we tried a chocolate phosphate (old fashioned soda fountain drink), a mint whip, and a chocolate peanut butter milkshake. The food was delivered in a wax paper type of individual bags.

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I swore after grade school that I would not eat bologna again. However, this sandwich was surprisingly tasty, especially with the grille onions. It seemed to be the crowd favorite. The mint whip was light and refreshing. The shake was good, but you couldn’t really taste the peanut butter. The fried zucchini was interesting to try, but it is a lightly flavored vegetable to start with, so when it was fried you lost a lot of the zucchini flavor. I would personally rather have fried pickles (although both will burn your mouth like molten lava if you don’t let them cool down first before eating). The burger was good, but you had to pay for extra toppings (including lettuce, tomato, cheese).

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The xango is a piece of cheesecake fried in a tortilla. It was different. I think I prefer my cheesecake cold, not hot.

Carhop running between cars

Posted in: Exploring Ohio, Museums & Tours, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

The Lucky Cat Museum

On our quest to find new and interesting things in our area to see, we found the Lucky Cat Museum, in the Clifton area. It is one woman’s personal collection of lucky cats. She has been an avid collector for years and has a large variety of Japanese Lucky Cats. The museum is free, although donations are welcome. There is also a gift shop where you can buy your own lucky cat themed items, ranging from postcards to lucky cats.

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One of my favorite pieces was a disco ball cat. The poor cat has been broken 3 times! The cat had been loaned out and broken. Micha glued it back together, painted it, and then covered it in the disco ball mirrors. The medallion and coins were left bare. The second time the cat broke, the medallion and coins were repaired and covered in mirrors and crystals. The last time it broke, the cat was glued together, filled with expanding foam, and the mirrors replaced.

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There were a few interactive pieces as well, including the slot machines (tokens provided).

VIDEO: Walking Through The Lucky Cat Museum

DETAILS:

  • WHERE: Essex Studios (2511 Essex Place #150, Cincinnati, OH 45206) 
  • HOURS: By appointment only
  • COSTS: Free, donations accepted
  • PARKING: Yes
  • BATHROOM: Yes, in the building but not in the museum
  • TIME RECOMMENDED: 45 minutes (time allowed per appointment)
  • COVID RESTRICTIONS: Masks, only 6 people per visit
  • *Details correct at the time of posting, but please double check before you go.
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