Our son is getting ready to head off to college in four weeks, my daughter just turned 16 and now there is another car in the mix and we had about 12 graduation parties to attend.
It was not a summer where we had a ton of cash lying around. We decided for the first time in many years, we weren’t going to head to a beach or overseas this year. The kids were a bit crushed, and to be honest, so was I. I love making memories with my kids and snapping photos and videos all day long that I upload to our family Shutterfly account. But reality set in and we had to do what was smart.
Soon after we made the decision, I also made a promise to myself – that at least twice a month, we would make our own staycation plans. This would be a day or night that we did something as a family and planning was involved.
And I can honestly say – we may have had more fun this summer than we did heading to the Outer Banks. It was light, fun, local and easy – and I made sure the kids were involved (even if it was protesting at first) so they understood that this was family time.
So here are my tips on planning fun, practical and affordable staycations in Northeast Ohio.
- Make Dinner An Ordeal – I know that sounds silly but when we planned dinner this summer, I made it a big deal. Everyone had the chance to suggest a place – but it had to be a NEW place where none of us had ever been. The deal was everyone had to research a restaurant and then we would put the names in a bowl and pick. We typically did this about once a week and it took us to some awesome places like Mable’s BBQ on E. 4th, Nora in Little Italy, Bold and Coastal Taco (both at East Bank) and Banter in Gordon Square! But the key with dinner was that it didn’t just feel like a quick meal out – we made it an evening. We would stop at a local beach on our way home and watch the sunset or hit up a late-night movie. It was never just an hour dinner – it was always a nightly affair.
- Hike It Out! Both my kids are athletic so a major way to keep them off their phones is to keep them active. So, I love finding awesome places to hike. And again – I never made it a “couple hour” commitment – we were all in! I would pack a backpack full of drinks and sandwiches, bust out the nice camera and find a place out in the middle of nowhere. Some awesome hiking trails include: The ledges Overlook, Chagrin Reservation (visit Squires Castle), Mohican/Punderson State Park – where I would suggest a cabin and an overnight stay, Rocky River Reservation or the Metroparks in Brecksville to name a few. There is no shortage of trails in our city so get out and get some fresh air together.
- L’Amour The Tour – This is probably my favorite thing to do and something that most Clevelanders don’t even know exists. From May – September, Heritage Tourism offers five, free, guided walking tours of five distinct neighborhoods in downtown Cleveland. Take a tour of the Gateway District, Warehouse District, Civic Center, Playhouse Square neighborhood or Canal Basin Park in the Flats. Each tour lasts approximately one and a half hours in length and features actors and actresses portraying historic figures from Cleveland’s past. We have been all but one and loved it – and always planned a lunch out after in the neighborhood of our tour.
- On The Move – This is my default activity when plans fall through. I love leaving early afternoon and heading to Edgewater Park to get some sun and play Frisbee. After a couple of hours, we head to dinner typically in Ohio City but now with Public Square renovated, pack a picnic basket and eat in the middle of our city. The views are amazing. And then end the night with a stroll through Tremont and ice cream at Tremont Scoops. It’s a perfect way to show the kids the city and also move around quite a bit. You can even pop into Banyan Tree and buy an awesome purse or cool sundress while you are finishing up your ice cream cone!
There are so many other awesome things to do all around our great city – the key is finding the day, making sure the kids know there are no other commitments allowed that day and locking hands on spending the day and evening together. I will admit that my teenagers don’t make it easy – they often complain, roll their eyes or try every excuse to get out of it – but there has yet to be a time when they weren’t glad we did it (and they typically even thank us for forcing it on them during our drive home).
So, if you’re like my family and couldn’t truly get away this summer – there is still plenty of time to plan some amazing staycation days that will help you fill up your smartphone with pictures.
Any others you want to share?