Surprise! A Busy Family Vacation can be Fun for the Family

One thing most people tell me after they get back from their first visit to the western half of the United States is that they are amazed at how far apart the towns are. Driving from one town to the next town can be anywhere from 15 minutes to 6 hours or more. Meaning, you better make sure you have enough gas in the tank and be ready to sit for a while.

The drive from my parents’ house to college was a nice 8 hour drive.  To go from my parents’ house to the closest city, Salt Lake City, was a 3 hour drive. To the second closest city, Denver, was a 6 hour drive. And it just got further from there.

Whenever we wanted to go on vacation as a family, we all loaded in the van and spent hours driving to our destination. We once spent a week going from national park to national park and I swear we only had about an hour to spend in each park because the rest of the time was eaten up by driving and sleeping.

Now that I’m a parent, the last thing I want to do is take my kids on a vacation where all we do is drive. I want to go to places where we end up at a hotel that sits next to some amusement park where the family can spend a few days to relax.

This last week during Addie’s fall break, we ended up in Ohio doing the type of vacation I thought we’d never do.

We visited Ohio’s Hocking Hills area and we did nearly everything you could possibly find on those flyers you see in hotels and in visitor’s centers. Our days were planned out so we went from one activity to the next, which meant our days were totally jam-packed with activities.

Here are some pictures of some of the things we did on our surprisingly fun vacation to Ohio:

  • Nature Hike 1 of 25
    Nature Hike
    We went on a nature hike with a professional naturalist. He and Addie became good friends and he took the time to answer all of Addie's questions about nature. Here he got down on a knee to break apart some poop so he could tell her what animal made it.
  • Wearing the Baby 2 of 25
    Wearing the Baby
    This nature hike was up some steep terrain so Vivi had to be worn. I'll take that opportunity every chance I get.
  • Baby in the Cave 3 of 25
    Baby in the Cave
    This is me frantically holding onto an upset baby in a cave. Vivi was bound and determined to run off the edge of the cliff that was only 30 feet from the cave's entrance.
  • Shawnee Indian 4 of 25
    Shawnee Indian
    At the end of our nature hike a Shawnee Indian was sitting on a rock playing his flute. He told us about the Shawnee people who used to live in the Hocking Hills area.
  • Rock Climbing 5 of 25
    Rock Climbing
    So we weren't really rock climbing. Vivi wanted to look off a rock cliff so she could shout at the plants below and I obliged her request.
  • The Shawnee Indian and Addie 6 of 25
    The Shawnee Indian and Addie
    The Shawnee Indian walked with Addie as we headed back to our car. He gave her her very own Shawnee name.
  • Vivi and Chess 7 of 25
    Vivi and Chess
    This pretty much summed up Vivi's excitement for my and Addie's game of chess.
  • Addie and Chess 8 of 25
    Addie and Chess
    Addie's first game of chess was with knee high chess pieces on a chess board made of concrete squares. She lost, but she did much better than she realizes.
  • Zip Lines 9 of 25
    Zip Lines
    Here Addie is getting prepped for an hour of zip lining. She made friends with the worker, just as she seemed to do with everyone we met.
  • Zip Lining 10 of 25
    Zip Lining
    Addie was a bit hesitant through her first few attempts at zip lining.
  • More Zip Lining 11 of 25
    More Zip Lining
    Addie eventually loosened up and tried to get some style points on the zip line.
  • Casey Wears the Baby 12 of 25
    Casey Wears the Baby
    Utah was playing a game while Addie was zip lining, which meant that Casey got to wear the baby as I followed the game on Twitter. Here they are playing Vivi's favorite game--where's Vivi.
  • My Girls 13 of 25
    My Girls
    I had to include this picture because I took it--plus it's my three girls.
  • Addie Rides a Horse 14 of 25
    Addie Rides a Horse
    Can you see the excitement on that kid's face?
  • Riding Horses 15 of 25
    Riding Horses
    This is what the back of a kid's head looks like while the kid has a smile going from ear to ear.
  • Casey Rides a Horse 16 of 25
    Casey Rides a Horse
    I hung out with Vivi so Casey could ride a horse. She may not want to admit it, but she had the same smile as Addie when she was about to get on her horse.
  • Gem Mining 17 of 25
    Gem Mining
    We took some time to do a little gem mining and Addie loved it.
  • Glazed Donuts 18 of 25
    Glazed Donuts
    I'm pretty sure we found the world's best glazed donuts at a little restaurant in Ohio. It would be impossible to describe just how good those donuts were.
  • Train Ride 19 of 25
    Train Ride
    During a train ride I got a little taste of what it's like to sit with an anxious baby who has to remain on someone's lap for a few hours. The baby did alright on her first train ride across the country.
  • Plane Ride 20 of 25
    Plane Ride
    Yeah, in one day we rode in a train, a plane, and an automobile.
  • A Vivi Leaf 21 of 25
    A Vivi Leaf
    Vivi loves to bend down and pick up leaves. I decided to add to her collection by putting them in her hair and her pants. The kid just stood there and took it. That's the sign of a good kid.
  • Baby in a Water Table 22 of 25
    Baby in a Water Table
    Outside cheese, there's nothing Vivi loves more than water.
  • The Zoo 23 of 25
    The Zoo
    Vivi refused to be held in our zoo family picture, but her little squat turned out alright.
  • Da Bear 24 of 25
    Da Bear
    We were about to leave the Columbus zoo when I told Casey it was against the law to go to a zoo and to not see a bear so we found some grizzly bears and then the grizzly bear found us. It was actually a little scary to have the bear get that close. It eventually smacked the glass where Addie was standing.
  • Exhausted 25 of 25
    This kid was exhausted by the time we got back. She didn't have time for naps during the trip and she usually didn't get to bed until after 9:00 pm.

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