Monday, December 17, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Like most of you, I've been reflecting on the past year now that 2012 is coming to a close. For our family, it's been a great year of adventure and exploration, especially as we welcomed Little Arrow (now one!) into the fold.

I can't thank you enough for reading, commenting, encouraging us, sending questions, etc. What started as a way to avoid cleaning my house while Big Arrow (then a baby, now three!) was napping, has turned into a community and even a part-time writing career. The friends I've made through this "space" on the web are such a treasure to me. I'm forever in your debt for all that and more.

We have a lot of exciting plans in 2013, so I hope you'll continue to follow us as we learn and grow.


I won't be blogging for the next couple of weeks as I enjoy time with my family. If you're looking for more info on some of our holiday traditions, you might like this video I made about our trip to Robert's Tree Farm. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, which I'll update with some of our fun plans during Christmas.

From our family to yours, make it a merry one!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Robert's Tree Farm (video)

One of my new year's resolutions is to take more video. Now that both the Arrows are mobile, it seems like the most realistic way to capture our life and our travels these days. Plus, I fully realize that in the blink of an eye they'll be cranky teenagers giving me the stink eye every time I take out my camera.

So when we returned to Robert's Tree Farm for our third annual Christmas tree selection, it seemed like a good time to practice being the official videographer of our family.

Besides spending time with our families, our visit to the tree farm is definitely my favorite holiday tradition. Just me, my boys and the great outdoors in the Indiana countryside. Here's a fun look back at our day there.



(I've decided that the best part about video is you can edit out some of the obnoxious, inappropriate behavior of your 3-year-old, plus you can cover up his whining with fun music!)





Crave more info about this place or the fun of picking your tree right from the field?

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Playground near Chicago's Michigan Avenue

'Tis the holiday shopping season, particularly if you're heading someplace fabulous to buy your presents. As a teenager, I very clearly remember the year my family headed to Chicago one December weekend to take in the ambiance of the Magnificent Mile along Chicago's famous Michigan Avenue. Talk about a shopper's haven!


My husband and I took advantage of not having an opinionated 3-year-old with no interest in shopping when we visited Chicago last April, and wandered this shopping area with Little Arrow happily tucked away snoozing in the stroller. As we neared Water Tower Place, I happened to notice what appeared to be a playground just a block off Michigan Avenue. Ever the diligent family travel blogger, I needed to get a closer look.




Families everywhere who flock to the Windy City for shopping? Have I ever got a kid-pleasing spot for your little ones to get the wiggles out. Seneca Playlot Park. It's on Chicago Avenue just one block toward the Lake off Michigan Avenue.



View Larger Map

We rarely do much shopping when we travel, mostly because neither my husband or I are interested in it. But some destinations just lend themselves to pounding the pavement and hitting the stores. So just be on the lookout for a playground or park to please the littles. As a mom to a rambunctious 1-year-old and 3-year-old, we are in a prime playground stage of parenting.

A few tips:
  • You can use Google Maps to explore where you'll be shopping in advance. The parks and playgrounds are usually easy to spot in green, especially in urban areas. If you can get a name from the map, you can then Google the park itself to determine what amenities it has. Most cities have at least a basic webpage for each of their parks.
  • If you find a nearby park without a playground, consider bringing a small blow-up ball or balloon for them to chase around the open area. (Or pick one up while shopping and let it double as a souvenir and toy!)
  • If you've got a baby, pack a thin blanket to spread on the ground during your park pitstop. I found that even when Little Arrow was a baby, he craved some time to get out of the stroller or carrier and wiggle around a bit once in a while.
  • More tips and reasons I love finding playgrounds when we travel here.
Happy shopping! Happy kids! Happy Holidays!

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.

PS: Want to know more about what makes me tick as a traveling mom? Check out "Get to Know Arrows Sent Forth" at Walking on Travels.

Friday, December 7, 2012

1 Year of Travel: Little Arrow's 1st Birthday

Since he has a nearly empty baby book, I need to ease some mama guilt and write a post dedicated to Little Arrow. He celebrated his first birthday on Saturday and I love the idea of a post dedicated to each Arrow on their birthday. So indulge me a moment here...

Maybe this will change with age, but right now, Little Arrow is very much about the destination, not so much the journey. He's had a few rough patches on long car trips and has stretched his vocal chords on a couple of flights. He hates to be contained, and I can't say I blame him. There's a very big world out there for him to explore!

But once you arrive? Goodness, is he ever the best little travel companion. He'll go anywhere, do anything. Brave as can be. And typically with a big, nearly toothless grin spread across his face.

In fact, he unleashed his first giggle while in Florida at 3 months.



Traveled 103 stories up above Chicago at 4 months (slept right through it, actually).


Survived his first camping trip at 6 months.



And then went skinny dipping in Saginaw Bay, Michigan at 7 months. (Don't you just want to pinch those cheeks? I think I might have to delete this post when he's ready to ask a girl to prom, though.)



Got crazy at a children's museum in St. Joseph, Michigan a couple of weeks later.



First ride on dad's shoulders in Minneapolis at 9 months.



He sure does bring the cute along, doesn't he? But beyond the killer good looks, I love that he has taught me to be a more relaxed mom. I look back on Big Arrow's first year, and mostly I remember being a nervous wreck about napping schedules, eating habits, and whether he'd sleep away from home.

Little Arrow has never been one for schedules, and his food preferences change by the hour. I soon learned to let all those concerns go and (for the most part) just let it be. And it's been the best year of my life with this special boy.

So happy birthday, Little Arrow. I can't wait to see what adventures await you in your second year. I have a pretty good feeling they'll be even more spectacular!

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?







Monday, December 3, 2012

Planning a Visit to Trader's Point Creamery

There are so many little gems around Indiana to explore (some of my favorites are listed at my Indiana Adventures page). But I think that one of the most unique spots has to be Traders Point Creamery on the northwest side of Indianapolis. Despite organic food being all the rage these days, this is one of the nation's only all-organic dairy farms.


Tucked away on a twisty, curvy road, you'd never realize you're just about 15 minutes from the heart of downtown. A visit to Traders Point Creamery lets you teach your kids about farming, where their food comes from, and the beauty of how Mother Nature provides for us, all in an accessible and affordable way.

Here are my suggestions for a fun day at the farm:

1.) Take a self-guided walking tour. While more formal tours are offered, if you're bringing the kids, I suggest moving at your own pace. Upon arrival, just check in at the small store. Cost is $2 per person and they'll provide you with a marked map. It's essentially a 1.5 mile loop around the farm, although you can walk less if the little legs you're bringing with you aren't up to the task. You can walk the grounds anytime between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.


Insider Tip: Bring your baby carrier (like this Ergobaby carrier I've donated to the Passports with Purpose fundraiser) and leave your stroller at home. The farm is much more manageable on foot than on wheels.



Insider Tip: Let the kids guide you with the map! (We had to steer these two in the right direction, but it was fun to let them think they were navigating...)



Insider Tip: Warn kids about the electric fences. The cows are free to roam the fields, but they are surrounded by a single electric wire fence. No one wants to end the trip early with a shock!


2.) Eat at The Loft. While you can find their products on the shelves of health food stores across the country (including many Whole Foods), in recent years the Creamery has expanded the operations to include a restaurant called The Loft.

The menu is full of options where most of the ingredients are either produced or grown on the farm.  And unlike some farm-to-table restaurants which can be a tad fancy, The Loft is very family-friendly and you'll feel comfortable dining there with kids of all ages. Their children's menu is healthy but fun.

The water comes in adorable mason jars.

3.) Pack a cooler. My friend who joined us was so smart to suggest we bring coolers to keep our purchases cold on the way home. Because this is a perfect time to stock up on their yogurt, cheeses and chocolate milk!

4.) End your visit with ice cream! Everyone's had a fun day already. But take it up a notch with some of their amazing ice cream. I'd share a photo, but I was too busy devouring it to stop and take a picture. (You understand, right?)

Insider tip: Order it in a cone. With a hint of cinnamon sugar, I thought the cone was just as delicious as the ice cream.



Suggested Itinerary:

Because they milk the cows at 4 p.m. daily (and you can watch!), visitors must clear off the paths around 3 p.m. So the staff at the Creamery suggested this as an ideal schedule for an afternoon at the Creamery:

2 p.m.: Arrive and spend an hour walking the grounds.
3 p.m.: Visit the Dairy Barn inside The Loft for ice cream.
4 p.m.: Watch the cows being milked.
Then you could either stay for an early dinner at The Loft or pick up some of their yummy products at the store and head home.

If you have little ones that typically nap in the afternoon like I do, then by all means visit in the morning. We missed out on the milking, but still had fun.

Christmas on the Farm:

Traders Point Creamery holds a lot of seasonal events (like an Oktoberfest in the fall and a weekly farmer's market in the summer). December 15 marks the 5th annual Christmas on the Farm. If you visit then, there will be sleigh rides, time with Old St. Nick, crafts, and hot chocolate made with the chocolate milk produced at the Creamery.


This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups / Walking on Travels and Wanderfood Wednesday at Wanderlust and Lipstick.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zaharakos for the Holidays (video)

There are just some places that I struggle to really capture with the written word. (This does not bode well for my writing career, unfortunately.)

Zaharakos, the 1900 ice cream parlor and soda fountain here in Columbus, Indiana, where we call home, is that sort of place. I've written about Zaharakos here and for Visit Indiana, but I've never felt like I've done it justice. And during this season of good cheer, it's all decked out in its holiday finest, making it even harder to describe.

So this time around, I went with video and put this little ditty together for the Columbus Visitors Center, where I've been blogging regularly over the last few months. My video skills could use some work too, but at least its a new take on one of our favorite spots.



Yes, you saw that correctly, I do in fact feed my baby ice cream. These kids won't grow big and strong on fruits and veggies alone. In fact, a giant serving of their chocolate ice cream was the last thing I ate before having Little Arrow a year ago!

Here are a few other photos from our recent visit.


I think my favorite part of Zaharakos' atmosphere is the chairs. It makes me really nostalgic for the ice cream shop my family went to when I was a little girl. And I love that I'm giving the Arrows those same memories.


Mmmmm. Soda syrups!



Someday he'll love me enough to look at the camera and smile.


This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom?

Don't forget to check out my Passports with Purpose prize, an Ergobaby Carrier and Travel Pack!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passports with Purpose: Win an Ergobaby Carrier

Like many travel bloggers around the world, I'm honored to once again be participating in Passports with Purpose. If you're unfamiliar with this annual event, it's a virtual fundraiser among travel bloggers and their readers. Bloggers procure prizes and our readers donate in order to win. Simple enough. This year, we're raising money to build two wells in Haiti. We're aiming for $100,000. You'll help us, won't you?

This year, I'm excited to be contributing a prize for the first time. And I could not be more in love with what I'll be giving away.

If I had to name one product that makes traveling with a baby or young toddler easier, more comfortable and more convenient, it would definitely be my Ergobaby carrier. I never take it out of my car so that I'm always ready for impromptu adventures, it joins us on every trip we take, and Little Arrow (who turns 1 this week!) has called it home for quite a bit of his life on the road thus far.

I'm basically a walking billboard for this thing. In fact, I'll be sharing a picture of my family using the Ergo each and every day of the Passports with Purpose fundraiser on my Facebook pageIt's just so versatile.

Use it hiking, like our trip to Clifty Falls State Park.



Or use it on the beach, which I did in Florida last winter.



It's essential for navigating big cities, and makes taking public transportation, like the light rail in Minneapolis, a breeze.



I didn't have an Ergo when I traveled with Big Arrow (now 3 1/2) when he was a baby. So I can tell you from firsthand experience just how comfortable this product is compared to other baby carriers. I'm somewhat petite, and yet I've managed to bring two pretty big baby boys into this world. I've literally worn Little Arrow in the Ergo for hours at a time, and I'm not the least bit sore or uncomfortable. It's really amazing.

More reasons to love the Ergo:
  • The Ergobaby carrier, along with the Ergobaby travel pack, make traveling and exploring with a baby or young toddler practically hands-free. And trust me, you need your hands for the hundreds of other tasks of parenting... taking pictures, wiping noses, fetching snacks, finding pacifiers...
  • It's machine washable. You really don't appreciate that feature until you need it.
  • You can take it through airport security. Who wants to wake a sleeping baby when flying? Because there's no metal components to this carrier, you'll walk right through without disturbing baby, other than a quick hand check.
  • The sun shade. Little Arrow spent hours on the beach or by the lake this summer. Mostly, he spent this time snoozing away in the Ergo, protected by the innovative sun shade.

So how do you win one? Easy. Head over to Passports with Purpose. There you'll see a listing of all the prizes that are being given away, including my prize (details below). For each $10 donation you make to this important cause, you'll receive one entry toward the prize of your choice.

The Details:
  • A black Ergobaby Performance Carrier (like the one shown here)
  • A black Ergobaby Travel Pack (like the one shown here)
    • I don't have one of these nifty travel packs, but I sure wish I did! It's essentially a diaper bag that connects right to your Ergobaby carrier.
  • Dollar value of approximately $220.
  • Prize can be shipped anywhere within the United States.
The Cause: This year, the team that organizes Passports with Purpose selected water.org as the organization that will receive all the money raised. It's hard to imagine a more basic need (fresh water) in a more deserving place (Haiti). You don't need me to convince you why this is a cause worth supporting, but let me just say this:

Did you flush a toilet today? Or pour your kids a sippy cup full of clean water? Or take a shower? Did you stop to give thanks for these things?

Then do so by helping to ensure your fellow man can do the same.

Not interested in an Ergo but still want to contribute? There are FABULOUS prizes available. Please check them out and donate generously.

And before I end this, big kudos to the generous sponsors that elevate this fundraiser to astounding levels and make our $100,000 goal within reach. They are:

Disclosure: I received the Ergobaby carrier that I'm giving away by having a blog post I wrote selected for inclusion on the Ergobaby website. I chose to donate this prize to this campaign. All opinions about the carrier are entirely my own, and I received the one I use as a gift from family.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gift Ideas for Traveling Families: 2012 edition

If you're buying for a traveling family this Christmas, here are a few gift ideas that perhaps you haven't thought about.

For the traveling mom:
  • Canvas Prints: Pick out a favorite vacation photo or two and get canvas prints made. I love these because they don't need a frame. I have a few up in our house and they not only make pretty wall or mantel decor, but it is so fun to be surrounded by memories of great trips. If you want to make this a surprise, at Printcopia you can print directly from social media outlets like Facebook and Instagram.
For the traveling (and camping!) dad:
  • Coghlan's Fire Lighters: We love to camp, and my husband is often tasked with the gritty job of starting the camp fire. This usually comes after he has unloaded our car of heavy bags and camping supplies, put up our tent, and done a gazillion other tasks. So we fell in love with these fire starters from Coghlan's. They light up just like a match and make great kindling. A perfect stocking stuffer for your favorite outdoorsman.

For the traveling preschooler:
Source: etsy.com via Nicole on Pinterest

For the traveling baby:
  • A pacifier clip: Big Arrow wasn't a pacifier kid, but Little Arrow loves having his pacifier handy, especially when we're traveling. Fortunately, a friend gave us a pacifier clip, which is particularly handy in the car and on a plane. (Plus, it doubles as a toy.) But this one, from the SimplyEverydayMe shop on Etsy, is almost too cute to pass up.
Source: etsy.com via Nicole on Pinterest

Looking for more ideas? Compiling some of my favorite travel gifts is becoming a bit of a tradition. Here are some other posts with additional suggestions:


Disclosure: I was provided with a canvas print from Printcopia for this post. All opinions and gift ideas are my own.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

AppleWorks in Trafalgar, Indiana

Like much of the country, we had some really bizarre weather this spring and summer. An oddly warm March, followed by an extremely dry summer. It caused all sorts of problems with many of the crops grown here. One of my favorite fall activities, the annual trek to the apple orchard, was affected as well.

The apple trees at AppleWorks in Trafalgar were hard hit, so picking apples wasn't an option (although they had plenty for sale). But for me, it just made a visit and a little financial support of their enterprise all the more important. So when a friend called me up and said they were heading that way, we jumped at the chance to spend a morning there.

They've got an awesome petting zoo. Two years ago, Big Arrow was particularly taken by the sheep. This year, it was the llamas.


Gotta get in for a closer look.



Award for most creative use of a barn? This slide!



Big Arrow was a little scared, but with encouragement from his buddies, he made it down. (And then, go figure, wanted to do it again and again and again.)



Next up was a miniature train ride through the orchard ($3 per person). A little bumpy but beautiful views of southern Indiana's rolling hillside. They also offer hay rides.



My favorite part of the AppleWorks experience is exploring the short trails that weave through the orchard, especially around their pond. (If you have a jogging stroller, bring it. You can easily navigate these paths with one.)

Beautiful photo opportunities. (We attempted to get all of us in a picture. Our only fail of the day.)


The sunlight coming through Little Arrow's ears makes me chuckle. The Arrows did NOT get their ears from me.


Tossing pebbles in the pond. Boys will be boys.

Do you think they missed the apples? Not a chance.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Como Park Zoo

Earlier this week, I posted a video of the Arrows playing zoo. We had just returned home from our trip to Minneapolis, so I know their game of pretend was inspired by the morning we spent at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul.

The grounds at this zoo are really gorgeous. I already shared this picture, which is one of my favorites (especially considering it's in the parking lot!) I also loved this shot of the zebras.



We didn't have time to explore the adjoining conservatory. But the building itself is impressive.



One of the reasons I love to visit zoos when we travel is that there is almost always a chance to see an animal you don't get to close to home. For instance, they had a great polar bear exhibit at the Como Park Zoo, and while the Indianapolis Zoo has a polar bear, he's rarely been active when we've been. Not so at Como Park!



The polar bear lair was one of Big Arrow's favorite parts of the Como Park Zoo. Kids get to crawl around a tunnel and explore as if they were polar bears themselves.



The giraffes are a favorite in our family. Probably because they're always eating (in other words, they'd fit right in with us).


Little Arrow was content to just enjoy the view.




A few tips if you head to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory:
  • Bring cash in small bills. This is a free zoo, but a donation is strongly encouraged as you enter. So you'll want to have a $5 or $10 bill handy.
  • Use a baby carrier or have an extra set of hands. Given the colder Minnesota climate, many of the animals are housed indoors, so you'll be in and out of buildings. Unfortunately, the doors were a little tricky to navigate with a stroller. So bring a friend to help you or use a baby carrier.
  • Don't worry about weather. It was a beautiful, sunny day when we were there, but if it had been gloomy, it would have been fine. Like I said, many of the animals are indoors. There's also a great area for kid activities just off the entrance if you need to escape the elements for a longer period of time. And you could always spend even more time exploring the indoor conservatory.


This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom, and Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases & Sippy Cups.

Monday, November 5, 2012

How to Help Kids Remember Travel

Occasionally I'll read articles by or about naysayers when it comes to family travel. One of their biggest arguments against traveling with young kids is that these children will never remember the experience, thus making it not worth the effort or the cost. I find this logic really faulty for a few reasons:
  • Remembering a trip isn't the point. I love traveling with young kids in part because it teaches them flexibility, patience, diversity, proper behavior on airplanes, in restaurants, how to sleep away from home, etc. They may not remember the specifics, but these lessons become ingrained in them at a young age via travel. And hopefully, we'll reap the rewards as they get a bit older. 
  • Important time together as a family. When my husband has time off and we decide to stay home, we inevitably get caught up in projects or chores around the house. When we travel, we simply spend time together away from those distractions, enjoying one another and our surroundings.

  • YOU will remember it. Someday the Arrows will grow up and leave our nest. I hope that in 20 years I'll be sitting on a beach with my husband, enjoying retirement, and reminiscing about watching our boys splashing in the water as babies.
  • My experience shows that young kids often DO remember trips!
With the exception of trips we took before he turned 2, Big Arrow (now 3 1/2) remembers and frequently talks about all of our vacations and many outings we take. Sometimes he'll comment on something that to me was completely insignificant, months and months after we return home, like what color train we took in Boston or that time we let him take his shoes off at a restaurant.

I'm sure he doesn't remember everything, and he may end up recalling very little by the time he's older, but seriously, who cares?

But if you DO care, here are a few ways we keep the memory of vacations and adventures alive in our boys:

1. Read books. This doesn't mean you have to spend a lot of money on a book about every destination (although they'd make great gifts or souvenirs). We check out books from the library, or we read general books that have an element related to where we're going or where we've been.

A few recommendations:
2. Play pretend. I'm always catching Big Arrow deep in an imaginary storyline with a plot that I can barely follow. Often his imagination takes him somewhere we've been before or recalls a particular event we went to. When I caught him "playing zoo" with Little Arrow a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist capturing it on video. He got a little silly when he realized I was filming, naturally. But bonus points for the creative use of a baby gate!



If your kids need a little encouragement when it comes to make-believe, you could think about where you've traveled lately. Perhaps a pretend trip to the museum or an imaginary airplane ride!

3. Pictures and video. Maybe it's just my kid, but Big Arrow is obsessed with seeing himself, whether it is in pictures or video. (In fact, he's asked to watch that zoo video about 30 times.) This is a great way to keep those memories fresh. You could even make small photo books for them to flip through after a big trip and display photos in their bedroom.

4. Just talk about it. Sometimes when we have time to kill (often in the car), I'll ask Big Arrow what he remembers about a vacation. Or what his favorite part was. Or what he didn't like. (This is often pretty funny, actually.)


I don't do these things with my kids because I'm desperate for them to remember our travels or because I'm super mom. Like I said, I don't really care. I see enough benefits to traveling when they're young to do it anyway. I just happen to love travel, so reading vacation books instead of another Elmo one or talking about our favorite museums while driving home from preschool is just fun for me (and hopefully them).


This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking on Travels.


*Affiliate links.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Children's Garden at Dow Gardens

What a rough week... 24 hour news coverage of total devastation on the East Coast, two sick kids at home, chilly weather. I just want to give everyone a big mug of hot chocolate (and running water and electricity for those without it). But all I've got is some pictures of a pretty place. So that'll have to do.

Earlier this week, I shared my tips for visiting Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan with kids. I mentioned carving out a lot of time for the Children's Garden. It is truly a magical, natural space of exploration for kids. Plus, there's a lot of hands-on fun beyond the beautiful scenery. Here are some of my favorite images of our time there. I hope it's a giant serving of happiness during an otherwise dreary week. May there be better times ahead, friends!


My favorite part of the garden was the watering station. An old-fashioned hand pump and plenty of watering cans for kids to take anywhere they want and water the plants in the garden. While much of the Children's Garden is geared toward the younger set, I even saw older kids getting into the act.


What is it about kids and bubbles? Always a hit.


I also really appreciated that the Children's Garden is just as beautiful and well-landscaped as the rest of the Gardens. You might even time your visit around an educational chat or storytime (shown above). Big Arrow wasn't really into it and wanted to explore instead. Can't say I blame him.

Afterall, there were elephant trees to see!


But the piece de resistance for Big Arrow was the giant sandbox. I shared this photo on Facebook of the epic fit he threw when it was time to leave.


In other words, pick your child's favorite outdoor pleasure and they've probably got it at the Children's Garden. Just brace yourself for a tantrum when the fun has to end.

Oh, and Little Arrow came too. And he doesn't throw fits... yet.


You can read more about our time in the Saginaw Bay area of Michigan here.

This post is a part of Photo Friday at Delicious Baby and Friday Daydreamin' and R We There Yet Mom?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tips for Visiting Dow Gardens with Kids


"Another vacation, another botanical garden."

So groaned my husband on our way to Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan when we spent a week in the area this summer. I sort of have a thing for public gardens like this and they always find a way onto our itinerary everywhere we go. He's not quite as enthusiastic as I am about it.

I tried to convince him that this was a way to relive his youth. His grandparents lived in Midland when he was growing up and they took him to this 110 acre garden on the estate of the Dow Family (think Dow Chemical) a few times.

"They dragged me there," he said. Hmm. No points for nostalgia, apparently.

Luckily, Dow Gardens has upped the fun factor in recent years for visitors who might not have a deeply rooted desire to visits spots like this. The addition of a Children's Garden meant Big Arrow had as much fun as I did.

One of the reasons I like visiting gardens like this one is that they're so easy. Just show up, walk around and enjoy your beautiful surroundings. But here are a few simple tips to ensure your family enjoys your time at Dow Gardens as much as we did.

1) Grab a map. It's a large space and if you have a limited amount of time, you'll want to make sure you hit the highlights and not get too far off track. Plus, Big Arrow loved looking at it and directing us.



2) Choose when to visit the Children's Garden. This is a really fun spot for kids and will be their favorite part of a visit to Dow Gardens. We find that Big Arrow does better when we let him do fun things right off the bat, and then he'll (typically) happily ride in the stroller while we do more adult-oriented things later. But for some kids, you might save the Children's Garden for the end as a special treat. I'd plan to spend at least an hour in this part if you've got kids 8 and under.

More info on our time in the Children's Garden can be found here.

3) Note the "plants in bloom" sign at the entrance. For older kids, it would be fun to find some of them within the gardens.



4) You don't have to stay on the sidewalks and paths. At least that's what we were told by a friendly gardener working on the day we visited. So if you spot a beautiful flower or waterfall that you've just got to get closer to, go for it.




If You Visit:
Dow Gardens
1809 Eastman Avenue, Midland, Michigan
Adults: $5; Kids 6-17 or college students w/ ID: $1; 5 and under are free
Hours vary seasonally, check the website.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Suitcases and Sippy Cups and Walking on Travels.