O’Bannon Woods State Park

Location: 7234 Old Forest Rd SW
Corydon, IN  47712
Price: $7/car Indiana residence; $9/car out-of-state residence

On our way back from Cincinnati, we decided on an impromptu stop at a local state park.  O’Bannon Woods is about 30 minutes off the interstate near Corydon, IN.  It’s probably an hour from Louisville, KY.  The park offers camping (primitive and electric), hiking, horse trails, fishing and picnicking year round.  They also have a pool, nature center and pioneer farmstead seasonally.  The park is very close Wyandotte Caves but is managed separately from that park.

Because it was off-season we decided to just do a small hike.  The weather which had sucked this whole trip finally cleared up and it was almost spring-like outside.  We parked at the Nature Center and walked part of the Tulip Valley Trail.  We had only meant to hike the lower part of the trail which is an easy mile loop by the visitor’s center.  This part of the trail is gravel and flat but I’m not sure you could take a stroller through it.  The trail actually walks you through the farmstead so that was fun to look at even if all the buildings were closed for the winter.  We saw a few deer while walking through the farmstead.

About midway through the hike, our oldest daughter decided she needed to use the restroom.  The only bathrooms open off-season are in the campgrounds.  We decided to take the trail the rest of the way up to the campgrounds.  The trail is only about a half mile from the gravel part to the campgrounds.  However this is a fairly steep climb up the ridge to the campground on a narrow dirt path (or in our case mud).

Restroom/shower house was clean.  We allowed the girls to play on the well maintained playground in the camping area.  Then we hiked back down the ridge to the nature center and our car.  The roughly two-mile hike took us about an hour and a half including a bathroom break and playground time.

Overall: We only hiked a small part of this park.  We plan on coming back during season to check out the farmstead and hike a few of the more rugged trails when we are better prepared.

Miss A hiking

 

Miss L and myself hiking

Cincinnati Zoo

Location: 3400 Vine St
Cincinnati, OH  45220
Price: Basic Ticket: $19/adult, $13/kid – tickets are offered at a discount if you buy ahead of time.  Also there are other add-ons you can get with the base ticket such as unlimited train and carousel rides.
Parking is $10
Smashed Penny Machine: Several throughout the park

Our main destination for this trip was the Cincinnati Zoo.  My daughter and I had watched all the videos of Fiona the baby hippo on YouTube and wanted to go see her ourselves (even though I explained to my 7-year-old multiples times 1-year-old hippos aren’t little anymore).

Thanks to a huge array of solar panels in the parking lot, the zoo actually has semi covered parking.  The covered parking was nice because it was still raining when we arrived at the zoo.  We paid for our admission and parking (when you use your other zoo reciprocity discount you cannot purchase online beforehand).   We opted for the Adventure Ticket which includes zoo admission, unlimited rides on the train and carousel and a 4D movie.  This ticket is normally $28/adult and $22/kid (we received 50% off with our local zoo membership).  A single ride on the train is going to run $4/person, a single ride on the carousel is $3/person, and the 4D movie is $5/person.  If you plan on doing all of these things then the Adventure Ticket saves you money.  They offer an in between option that gives just unlimited rides on the train/carousel.  Make sure you pick the ticket that’s going to maximize your money.

Because of the rain and the fact we arrived at open, the zoo was empty for most of the morning.  Normally we didn’t see more than 1 or 2 other families in any given area.  Because it was Spring Break for local schools as well there were several groups of Spring Break Campers in the zoo but the zoo was certainly not busy.  Our daughters rode the carousel by themselves.  Thanks to the cool weather lots of animals were very active.

If you opt to do the Adventure Ticket you have to pre-select your 4D movie.  We opted to watch Storks at 10:30.  We were a little off on timing as we reached the area of the theater 30 minutes before show time.  We wandered over to watch the manatees swim and kill a little time.  Not a big deal just meant some back tracking with walking.  I would suggest that if you are planning on coming when the weather is going to be hot, I would plan to do the movie during the early afternoon to give you a chance to just sit in some A/C.  The 4D movie was just a typical 4D experience as a condensed version of the full length film.  If you have never done a 4D experience, it is basically a 3D movie but they add extra effects such as fans blowing during a windy scene or a mist of water that lightly sprays you during a water scene.  I had not seen the film so it was entertaining.  My older daughter had seen the movie but still really enjoyed the experience.  The baby sat mostly still for the movie (it’s only 15 minutes) but wouldn’t wear the 3D glasses.  I’m not sure I’d necessarily recommend the 4D experience but it was kind of a neat splurge.

When we exited the movie the rain had stopped and crowds had started to increase.  We decided to work our way towards the only indoor seating food stop Base Camp Café.  Food options were mostly sandwiches, salads, fries and basic deli style servings.  The kid’s meal portions were large enough for two young children to share.  We also just bought the souvenir cup and just split the drink.  We would later spend $1 to get a refill (maximize your cash and ask for lite or no ice).  Food costs are on par with every other zoo I’ve been to.  Staff was friendly.  Food was ready quickly and there was ample indoor seating. In nicer weather there is a LARGE outdoor patio that overlooks the African exhibit.

After lunch we rode the train which makes a short loop around the pond in the center or the zoo.  It did some nice views of several exhibits including the flamingos and wolves.  The tracks went right next to the pond which delighted the baby as her favorite animal is ducks (or literally any bird).  Afterwards we finished touring the zoo with the African section and large cats.  They have giraffe feedings for $3 per person.  This got our oldest the chance to feed 3 pieces of lettuce to her favorite animal and makes for a neat photo opp.  Sadly because of the cool weather the hippos were not on exhibit (guess we’ll have to go back another day).

Also there were many members of staff out at the various buildings and gift shops with animal encounters.  Our girls got to pet several lizards and snakes.  I’m not sure if they normally have so many animal encounters or if the zoo anticipated large crowds with Spring Break.  Either way it was fun to learn a little about these creatures.

Around 1:30 we had seen most of the zoo and we stopped for souvenirs and a final restroom break by the front gate.  My daughter collects smashed pennies.  There were several machines scattered throughout the zoo and each has its own designs.

Overall:  I thought this was a very nice zoo.  The zoo was not perfectly flat so be prepared for some uphill walking at times but nothing too hard.  The zoo was clean.  The animals seemed well cared for.  Staff was friendly.  I would come back for a second visit.

Trammel Fossil Park

Location: 12026 Tramway Park Drive
Blue Ash, OH  45241

Price: Free

After lunch the rain had slowed to a drizzle so we decided to continue with our original plan to go dig up fossils at Trammel Fossil Park.  It is a park in the sense that it is public land and it’s outside.  However, there are no amenities available in the off-season (from what I understand there are portable toilets during the summer).  The park consists of a hillside of loose rock and a small picnic area that has some information boards about what type of fossils you are looking at and how they came to be there.  There is no shade so if you are there when it’s hot out bring sunscreen and lots of water.  If you are crazy and go there after nearly two weeks of solid rain like we did bring an extra pair of shoes (we did not have that, learn from my mistake).

Mud does not bother 7-year-olds so my oldest plunged right up the hill.  I had packed a small sand pail and a garden trowel so we could dig for fossils.  You don’t need any tools.  There are millions of fossils just still on the hill-side.  What you are mostly hunting for are Bryozoans (little creatures that had skeletons that resembled twigs) or Brachiopods (kinda like a clam so they look like seashells).  We found lots of the twig like fossils.  We weren’t lucky enough to find an actual shell but we found lots of rocks where the animal had imprinted into the rocks.  Having the bucket was nice so my daughter could carry her findings as she scrambled around the hillside.  I limited her to bringing home the best 5-7 fossils that she found.

By the time she and I were done (probably 45 minutes or an hour), we were a muddy mess and I did my best to clean shoes and pants legs with baby wipes.  Now Dad and Baby Girl had a much rougher time at this stop.  The hillside where you find fossils is fairly steep and the rocks are all pretty loose.  This is not a great stop for young kids or toddlers.  Lucky because of the rain we were the only people at the park so baby was able to just run around the picnic area and the two of them took a walk through the parking lot.

The park is also just in the middle of a bunch of industrial sites and warehouses.  I thought it would be difficult to locate the park but GPS had no problem and once you are in the industrial area there was a giant sign.

Overall: My grade school age had a blast.  I do think this is a place you should only go if the weather is nice.  I would not recommend this stop for anyone with very young kids.

Miss A digging up fossils

The Root Beer Stand

Location: 11566 Reading Rd
Sharonville, OH  45241
Price: Cheap Eats

Our next stop was for a late lunch.  I had read about a local favorite called The Root Beer Stand in the northern suburbs (Sharonville area).  By the time we drove there it was about 2:00 so I thought that would be a great time to go as it wouldn’t be busy.  I was wrong.  I don’t think this place is ever not busy.  This is a very small building.  Indoor seating includes maybe 20 bar stools.  I would suggest stopping here on a day that is warm and sunny.  There was ample outdoor seating behind the building including a covered shelter house.  They also had a playground.  We were there on a cool and raining March day so outside was not an option.  We did luck into finding 3 stools that another family was just vacating.  The food is very basic: hotdogs, burgers, BBQ sandwiches, chips, ice cream.  However they are known for their homemade root beer.

We ordered a BBQ pork sandwich, cheese burger, two hot dogs and a half-gallon of root beer to split.  The root beer came with frosted mugs (they had tiny shot glass sized mugs for kids but my daughter wanted a grown up mug).  Food came very quickly.  Staff was very friendly and even had the cook cut up the toddler’s hot dog for us.  Food was fine.  The sandwiches weren’t anything exciting but for the money it was a fair deal.  Root beer was good as well.

After sandwiches we ordered two ice creams to share.  At this point my older daughter also moved on to my lap because there was a couple trying to find seats together and not having much luck.  So at this point we are a family of four sitting on two stools.

Overall: It’s a fine place to eat with kids.  I think the locals probably love it more for nostalgia.  If it is a nice day I’d say go for the local vibe.  If it’s rainy or hot, I think this is a skip.

Miss A and myself enjoying our root beer

William Howard Taft National Historic Site

Location: 2038 Auburn Ave
Cincinnati, OH  45219
Price: Free

We got up a little later than normal and got on the road after breakfast.  We arrived in Cincinnati around 11:30 local time (thanks to a fun break down of time zones, the far western counties in Indiana are in CST).  Unfortunately for us, this has been a VERY wet March for the entire Midwest and that weather pattern continued for much of the trip.

Our first stop was the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.  I will admit that I knew almost nothing about President Taft but we put this on the list figuring it would be a quick stop to add to a growing Jr Ranger badge collection.  There is a little bit of parking directly in small lot in front of the Visitor’s Center.  If the site was having a very busy day, there is plenty of street parking on nearby side streets.

The entire complex includes a small visitor’s center which had a small museum dedicated to President Taft and the rest of the Taft family and a short video (about 15 minutes) that gives background to President Taft’s life.  With a one year old in tow, we did not watch the movie.  We stopped in to the ranger’s desk to collect the Jr Ranger booklet and the volunteer told us he would be leading the next tour over to the house in about 10 minutes.  So we used that time to look around the museum.

The short tour of the house including a volunteer or ranger giving a tour of three of the main rooms in the house including the parlor, office/library, and the nursery.  All three rooms are set up with period style furniture and some Taft family heirlooms.  This was President Taft’s childhood home so the tour is aimed at explaining how his upbringing helped mold him into the President.  After touring the rooms, visitors are free to explore the upper and lower stories of the house.  Upstairs would have originally been the children’s bedrooms but have been converted into displays about various aspects of President Taft’s career.  The basement would have housed the family’s kitchen and dining room but has been converted into conference rooms.  The tour was very informative and my budding history buff had a lot of questions for the tour guide.  Then we wandered through the exhibits to finish filling the Jr Ranger booklet.  Unfortunately due to the rain we couldn’t walk through the gardens outside but other than that this is a GREAT rainy day activity.

The Visitor’s Center also has a small gift shop where my daughter purchased an old fashion toy like the children would have played with when Taft was a child.  She also turned in her Jr Ranger booklet to receive her badge and certificate (this one was a very nice one printed on card stock, most of them are just the last page of the booklet).  Total time spent along with the tour was a little over an hour.  You could spend more time if you read each of the displays in detail but we were starting to get hungry so we rushed through a few.

Overall: We all enjoyed the Taft house.  If you aren’t big into history this is not a good fit for you, but I honestly learned a good deal about a lesser known President.  Oldest daughter learned some stuff and baby enjoyed being able to show off  her skills of climbing stairs and making mad dashes out of rooms with her father chasing her.

Miss A learning about President Taft
Miss L loving the multiple sets of stairs in the home.

Cincinnati – March 2018

This year our daughter’s Spring Break was the week before Easter so we already had a long weekend for Good Friday.  We decided on a mini trip of just Thursday and Friday.   It gave us the best of both worlds: something fun for my daughter to look forward to on Spring Break, we only used one day of vacation and we were back home in time for Easter festivities with family.

We live at the point of Indiana (you know where it meets Kentucky and Illinois) and we wanted to pick a destination that wouldn’t mean driving all night to get there.  We settled on Cincinnati, OH since it is only about a 3.5 hour drive from home meaning we would only need to spend one night in a hotel.  Plus I hadn’t been to Cincinnati since I was a child.

There is a fair amount of things to do in the general Cincinnati area include Kings Island theme park, the Newport Aquarium, the Cincinnati museums, and several professional sports teams.  It really wouldn’t be hard to make this a location for a longer stay.

Travel group: Myself (34), my husband (32), and our two daughters (7, 1)

Time of trip: Spring Break, Late March

Day 1 Travel from Evansville to Cincinnati
William Howard Taft National Historic Site
The Root Beer Stand
Trammel Fossil Park
Hotel in Sharonville area

Day 2 Cincinnati zoo
O’Bannon State Park
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