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Going back a decade or so, I recall a rather dull drive through downtown Sandusky, Ohio.  On my latest visit, I couldn’t believe the change.  Cool looking buildings, nice parks, and great places to eat and to play. Nice going Sandusky – you’re definitely a hip place to visit once again.

Sandusky is only minutes from the world famous Cedar Point, but most park goers probably pass right by on their way to the park. Whoops, your bad.  You are missing a great place to visit with some cool attractions and some great restaurants, even a speakeasy.

You gotta visit

Dozens of buildings, even blocks of buildings have been restored and are currently filling with a host of new businesses.  As I walked with Jason Werling, chief photographer and director of multimedia for the Sandusky Register, he pointed out new businesses, one after another.  Sure, some old ones are still here, but the vibe is new and exciting once again.

Highlight of the visit was a trip to the Merry-Go-Round Museum where expert woodsmiths and painters painstakingly and lovingly restore some of these past relics to better than new condition.  Did you know there are three distinctly different kinds of merry-go-round horses? With a working carousel in the center of the museum, anyone who appreciates the memories of these fun rides is certain to love a slow wander around the dozens of pieces collected here.

You gotta eat and drink

Brand new back in June when I was there was the Small City Taphouse.  With a most impressive wall of taps, you can select from dozens of draft microbrews.  They also have wine for those who prefer the bigger bottles.  And, be sure to try their appetizers – just awesome.  They’ve taken what was rumored to be one of the worst building interiors and turned it into a lively place filled with locals.

We stopped for dinner later at the Zinc Brasserie.  No less lively, it’s a bit quieter here and the emphasis is on really great French-inspired food.  There’s a full bar, a great wine list and a couple dozen entrees to select from on the menu.  I had their version of surf and turf and it was amazing.  I’ll be back for sure.

Capping off the night, as the sun begins to set over Lake Erie, find your way to Volsted, maybe the city’s first legal speakeasy.  But you gotta know the code. Either go to their website www.volsteadbar.com or look at their front window for some green lights.  It they are illuminated, there are that many seats available.  If the lights are off, you’ll have to try back later.  But, do try back – it’s worth the visit.

The Volstead used to be Dorn Winery and later, the Green Door Brothel (but that’s another story.) Now, it’s a bar downstairs and home to Green Door Mediaworks, a PR firm upstairs. Drinks are hand crafted and there’s two pages to pick from.  They also have reds, whites and sparkling wines.  Once you’re in, you won’t leave thirsty.

You gotta play

You don’t head to this Lake Erie Shores and Islands’ part of the country without thinking about having some amusement/water park fun and there’s nothing like Cedar Point.  Acknowledged around the globe as the “Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” you won’t find anything else even close to this amazing park.

With over 70 rides and their world-record roller coasters, this is the place to go for family fun activity. You can easily spend a day in the sun or you can find enough to do in the shade that every single person in your party is going to go home happy.  With over a mile of sandy beach, parasailing & water ski rentals, a marina and Soak City Waterpark – if water’s your thing, they’ve got you covered.  If you want to just wander and eat – three dozen food vendors will fill every last inch in your stomach.  Want to be entertained while you don’t move a muscle – there’s almost a dozen live entertainment venues. There’s a reason it’s been voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” for the past 16 years by Amusement Today readers.

You gotta sleep

There are two ways to spend the night at Cedar Point –with very different vibes.  Check them out on the website. Plus, there are three more places operated by Cedar Point, all within minutes of the park that include discounted tickets to the park.

I spent a night at Castaway Bay and was quite delighted with this combination hotel and indoor waterpark.  Perfect for families with kids, they can run all around and you’ll be happy to know they are somewhere within the same four walls where they started. With giant water tube slides and a huge wave pool, the water park is perfect for little ones or teens. Multiple food outlets within the facility mean you’d never have to leave.  Yet, the rooms are quiet and quite spacious.  It’s a great place to spend a night or a long weekend.

You gotta GO

Quit reading – make plans to get to Sandusky – now.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Sandusky shines again – it’s alive Going back a decade or so, I recall a rather dull drive through downtown Sandusky, Ohio.  On my latest visit, I couldn’t believe the change. 

There’s something to be said for being first – sort of akin to being best. Either is good but being both is great. Harrodsburg, KY can certainly lay claim to both.

Turns out that Harrodsburg was the first English settlement west of the Alleghenies when it was founded in 1774. It is also home to America’s largest restored Shaker village.  From the simple elegance of the Shaker architecture to the plethora of architectural examples in historic downtown Harrodsburg, I can honestly recommend it as a destination for anyone who appreciates great design.

Photographers, woodcrafters, & history buffs are going to find this place irresistible. The days we spent here were dreary, cold, cloudy, and rain was threatening most of the time…but my shutter finger never left my camera.  There was that much to photograph.

Fort Harrod

Completed a year after the town’s founding, Fort Harrod was instrumental in protecting Kentucky’s first inhabitants.  In 1927, today’s replica was opened to preserve the memory of this first western outpost.

Fort Harrod State Park

Cabins and blockhouses can be toured when the fort is open.  Buildings are complete with furnishings and tools actually used by the pioneers.  Small animals can be found in holding pens within the fort.

A park surrounds the fort with picnic areas and a gift shop.  Look for the (unofficial) largest Osage-orange tree in the nation in the park grounds.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

In 1805, a group of Shakers settled here, establishing an area they named Pleasant Hill.  As the group grew to almost 500 men, women and children in the 1820’s, they kept adding acreage until they reached more than 4,000 acres.

With the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century, the Shaker community entered a period of decline and now Shakers can only be found in New England.

Today, 3,000 of those acres are maintained and 34 of the buildings are operated as a 501 (c)(3) insuring preservation of this National Historic Landmark. While the Shakers designed their buildings and furnishings quite simply, the stairways are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere.  So graceful and so elegant, they are not to be missed.

Shaker Village stairways

Shaker Village operates a seed-to-table restaurant (The Trustee’s Office Dining Room) with a menu of homegrown selections that is just amazing and you can even spend the night if you are lucky enough to get a reservation at the Inn at Shaker Village. Whether you come for hours or days, this is a place you deserve to add to your must-do list.

Downtown Harrodsburg

While not necessarily showing signs of its rugged pioneer past, downtown Harrodsburg is a great place to wander and soak up all the various architectural styles of the last couple centuries.  From unique storefronts to quaint homes to the wealth of church architecture, there’s bound to be something that appeals to everyone.  Allow an hour just to wander the few blocks around downtown and read the historical plaques to appreciate the history of this area.

Catch a play at the Ragged Edge Community Theatre, check out the artwork at the Arts Council for Mercer County Studio Gallery, marvel at the huge farm implement sculpture in the County Library or drop in Dedman’s Drugstore/Kentucky Fudge for some refreshment. Or, a block over from Main Street is the Olde Bus Station, where a sign on the wall proclaims “Free Beer – tomorrow.”

Spend the night

If you’ve arrived in Harrodsburg by following the Bourbon Trail, you owe it to yourself to reserve a night or two at historic Beaumont Inn, Kentucky’s oldest family-operated country inn. Originally built as a prestigious girl’s boarding school in 1845, the family has been hosting guests here since 1918.  Now the fifth generation continues to offer the same fabulous service and food which has earned the inn national acclaim.

If you are a Bourbon aficionado, you should plan ahead to get a seat at the private, premium bourbon tasting events hosted by Dixon Dedman here at the Inn. Not only will you be able to taste some of the most famous, and expensive, of all the bourbons available, he will equip you with enough Bourbon tales to last a lifetime.  Most instructional and enjoyable!  If you’ve still got room for more, head downstairs later and order from over 75 different Bourbons available in the Old Owl Tavern or the Owl’s Nest Lounge.

Beaumont Inn

Rooms overlook their 33-acre park and are outfitted with beautiful antique furnishings.  Be ready for a great complimentary breakfast in the morning with their signature cornmeal batter cakes with brown sugar syrup. Before you leave, be sure to stroll through their lengthy, well-stocked, Kentucky-crafted gift shop for all sorts of treasures you never knew existed.

More information

For more information on Harrodsburg, contact Harrodsburg/Mercer County Tourist Commission at 800-355-9192.

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Harrodsburg – a must-see in Kentucky #travel #BourbonTrail There’s something to be said for being first – sort of akin to being best. Either is good but being both is great.

The Wild Atlantic Way seems to go on forever, but it obviously has to start somewhere. That some where’s northern-most point is Malin Head where the ocean has worn deep crevices into the headlands.  Hell’s Hole, shown here, accentuates the surf as it fills and recedes, providing a constant concert with the sounds of the many birds that flock here from Iceland, Greenland and beyond.

Malin Head - copyright Failte Ireland

Following the Wild Atlantic Way south, you’ll drive along the eastern side of Lough Swilly, a glacial fjord that separates Inishowen Peninsula from Fanad Peninsula. At its southern tip is Letterkenny, where the road turns north again and takes you past beautiful Rathmullan House and on to Portsalon Beach on Ballystocker Bay.

Port Salon Beach on Ballymastocker Bay

Recognized as the second most beautiful beach in the world by The Observer, Portsalon is a Blue Flag beach with inviting large rocks for climbing and sand dunes for exploring.  Found some fascinating snails while wandering among the dunes.

[See a map of points discussed here in County Donegal]

Proceeding to the northernmost tip of Fanad Peninsula, you’ll arrive at Fanad Head, site of one of my favorite lighthouses. This second most northerly lighthouse in the Republic of Ireland overlooks the site of a famous sea battle in 1798 which resulted in the capture of Wolfe Tone, father of Irish independence. About a half-century later, this area’s population was devastated by The Great Hunger.

Next stop on our road trip was Rosapenna, where we met up with Grassroutes Electric Bike Adventures. Select from their day packages and ride for 1, 2, 3 or up to 10 days on one of their excellent Kalkhoff battery-assisted bikes. It’s an easy way to see more without the “pedal fatigue” common among casual riders.

Various packages introduce you to the beautiful roads across northwest Ireland.  We didn’t have a full day, but we did manage to ride Atlantic Way all the way to the coast of Sheephaven Bay. I’m already thinking about upgrading my mountain bike back home for one of these.

Driving around to the western shore of Sheephaven Bay, you’ll find yourself in the little town of Dunfanaghy and its protected bay where you can ride horses on the beach.  After lunch at Arnolds Hotel, we mounted up at Dunfanaghy Stables and set out for the surf.  It was low tide and the water was quite a distance from the shoreline.

Riding on the beach at Dunfanaghy

As we headed back, we rode through the dunes, often losing sight of the horizon as the sand and the sea grasses were quite tall.

Riding through the dunes at Dunfanaghy Stables

Ready for a cold one, we pulled into Crolly and found Leo’s Tavern, a clean but unassuming pub in Meenaleck. Only after meeting proprietor Bartley Brennan and being welcomed inside do you realize you are in a very special place. Gold and platinum record albums line the walls among photographs of the who’s who of the recording industry. (Watch a video about the history of Leo’s.)

Leo, it turns out, is father to Emmy award winning Enya, Moya Brennan and music group Clannad. Sit at the table where Bono sat in the main dining room or grab a brew in the smaller, intimate room with a peat fire going in the floor-to-ceiling fireplace. Get nice and warm, because were heading for the sea cliffs next.

Click here for the index of all Wild Atlantic Way articles in this series

Previous article in the Wild Atlantic Way series: Bantry – County Cork

Next article in the Wild Atlantic Way series:  County Donegal – part two

Why travel the Wild Atlantic Way? [Infographic]

Five little gems to discover on the NW coast of Ireland #travel #WildAtlanticWay The Wild Atlantic Way seems to go on forever, but it obviously has to start somewhere. That some where’s northern-most point is Malin Head where the ocean has worn deep crevices into the headlands. 

The Illinois State Fair wrapped up Sunday with headliners Robin Thicke/MAGIC! performing in the grandstand.  They were preceded by Steely Dan on Friday night and Jake Owen/Parmalee/Cadillac 3 on Saturday. But, as popular as these acts were with teens and adults, the real winners of this year’s fair may have been the kids.

IL-State-Fair-2345

No matter where you went, there were activities for kids of all ages.  From fishing to creating your own artwork, to face painting, to archery lessons and BB gun practice; there were activities for the younger set throughout the fair. Kids Korner had a full program of events scheduled each day from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

The livestock competitions gave youngsters a time to shine and many went home with ribbons and a sense of pride in their accomplishments.  Noah Schafer (r)(14) of Petersburg, IL and Alyvia Myers (l)(14) of Albany, IN couldn’t have been prouder with “Cookie Monster,” an overall award winner.

IL-State-Fair-2291

The midway was also full of rides, just right-sized for the younger set and the young at heart.  Ride operators all seemed to be attuned to working with youngsters and were cheerful as well as helpful to assure their safety.

If you missed it, here are dates for the Illinois State Fair in coming years:

August 13 – 23, 2015
August 11 – 21, 2016
August 10 – 20, 2017
August 9 – 19, 2018
August 8 – 18, 2019
August 13 – 23, 2020

Mark them on your calendar and plan to bring the entire family next year.  They’ll love you for it.

If you go:

Illinois State Fair Grounds

801 Sangamon Ave. 

Springfield, IL

Recommended overnight accommodations:

Just a five minute drive to the fairgrounds, we stayed at Quality Inn & Suites; 3442 Freedom Drive; Springfield, IL 62704  (217.787.2250).  It was a straight shot to the fairground and couldn’t have been easier to get there.

Quality Inn is one of the type hotels we like to use: good value for the price, park conveniently outside your room, a pool and spa to relax, and good speed, free Internet. The room was quite comfortable with a good sized table where I edited photos, a couple firm, comfortable beds, refrigerator and coffee service in-room.

That sums up all the comforts I need for a good night’s stay when I’m on the road. Friendly front staff at the desk and breakfast before you leave, why spend more?  Lots of local shopping within a short walking distance and close to many of Springfield’s attractions.

For more information on Springfield, Illinois, check in with the Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau at http://visit-springfieldillinois.com/

Is the Illinois State Fair the “Kid Friendliest?” #travel #slideshow The Illinois State Fair wrapped up Sunday with headliners Robin Thicke/MAGIC! performing in the grandstand.  They were preceded by Steely Dan on Friday night and Jake Owen/Parmalee/Cadillac 3 on Saturday.
Luxury Travel – Tips for the Good Life on a Budget

Luxury Travel – Tips for the Good Life on a Budget #travel #budgettravel

by Bob Diener

It’s possible to travel in a five-star style while keeping your three or four-star budget if you know the

tricks to saving money and enjoying luxury. When it comes to finding a luxury hotel, you should consider

boutique names. In big cities, five-star hotels can be over $600 a night for the most well-known names.

Boutique hotels can be found for much less, and often provide a more…

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14 for 2014 – Great products to take into the great outdoors

14 for 2014 – Great products to take into the great outdoors #tech #outdoors #ORShow

Today wrapped up the 2014 Outdoor Retailers Show in Salt Lake City, with hundreds of new products showcased and hundreds more with updates and improvements made since last year.  Whether your love is cycling, running, water sports, hiking, camping, or just plain picnicking in the park, we think we’ve found some things you are likely to enjoy.

We include products today for anyone who wants to get…

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9 Ways to improve your next outdoor adventure

9 Ways to improve your next outdoor adventure #tech #travel

Wandering the floors of the Salt Lake City Convention Center for the next four days, we’ll be bringing you some great new ideas for your outdoor adventures from the 2014 Outdoor Retailers Show.  Today, we seemed to be in the “shoe central” section of the building, so we’ve got a number of recommendations for footwear we saw and tried out.

Stick with us as we try to cover the entire hall by this…

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Nine gadgets for your next outdoor adventure

Nine gadgets for your next outdoor adventure

Twice a year, outdoor retailers make the pilgrimage to Salt Lake City for the largest showing of new products for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether your thing is biking, hiking, fishing, camping, swimming, running, kayaking, paddle boarding…or whatever, if it can be done outside, chances are your local dealer is here ordering up the newest of the new.

Over the next five days, we’ll be bringing you the…

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Fall foliage, tallships & a Japanese festival - ToDo Tuesdays 8/5/14 edition

Fall foliage, tallships & a Japanese festival – ToDo Tuesdays 8/5/14 edition

Every few weeks, we scan our deluge of press releases and look for great travel opportunities, around Cleveland, around the country and around the world.  ToDo Tuesday’s wraps up some of the best reasons we’ve found this week to get off the couch, grab the camera and get outside to have some travel fun.  Hopefully we’ll maybe see you at one of these events.  If you’re coming, drop us a line.

 

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Take a giant farm, import almost 300 of the finest craft artisans you can find, and invite 60,000 of your closest friends.  Yep – that pretty much sums up the 52th annual Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival.  Located in Nappanee, Indiana, the festival is on the “Top 100” list of destinations selected by the American Bus Association for the sixth time.

The arts and crafts festival began in 1962, growing to a huge four-day show that now attracts artisans from 30 states across the US.  The event moved to Amish Acres as it outgrew the downtown area where it originated as a clothes line art show.  Amish Acres is a restored 80-acre historic farm just a mile from downtown Nappanee.

Crafts ranged from wooden furniture, toys and jewelry to iron lawn decorations, garden supplies and clothes of every shape and description. Candles, wine supplies and natural products were available, as well as personalized signs and clothing.  Art ranged from quilts to paintings, photography and bead work. Products for your pets? Pawsitively.

If you had come with your Christmas gift list and a pick-up truck, you could have certainly made a dent in your list.

In addition to the hundreds of craft booths, food vendors offered a wide variety of selections.  We tried some Italian sausage and beef brisket sandwiches which were both excellent.  The Amish cinnamon doughnuts were out of this world – but only available in packs of six.

Swan boats on the lake were extremely popular. Located in the center of the farm, a small lake provided plenty of space for parents and kids to pedal their boats while others tried fishing from a small pier.

Entertainment went on throughout the show on four stages. Lisa & Mark Woolever wandered the grounds playing music and creating smiles as they made their way around the farm. Lessons and craft demonstrations filled out the day.

Next year’s event is planned for August 6-9 and you’ll be able to find it on our Calendar of Events.

Nappanee rocks with arts & crafts Take a giant farm, import almost 300 of the finest craft artisans you can find, and invite 60,000 of your closest friends.