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Friday, March 17, 2017

Shawnee Lodge in Shawnee State Park, West Portsmouth, Ohio


On a recent visit to south-central Ohio, I needed to find lodging for just one night. We were headed to a college campus for a visit and tour with my son and would be out the door early in the morning. I have loved staying at lodges in state parks. The setting is so much more serene and peaceful than a Best Western situated next to an expressway exit.

Unfortunately our drive to Ohio lasted all day and got us there well after dark, so we didn't get much of a change to see the grounds. I'd love to visit again to spend more time in this beautiful park when the weather is warmer, the days are longer and there's time to explore.

The lodge was renovated in 2012 and has the amenities you'd expect at a family lodge and some that would definitely be absent at a roadside express hotel. The grounds include a restaurant and bar, indoor and outdoor pools, game room, fishing, canoe and paddleboat rentals, tennis, volleyball, basketball and other fun activities.

Originally our trip was planned with 6 of us and trying to find a hotel to accommodate that many people in one room can be difficult. I was happy to find this room that was reasonably priced and had two queen beds and two bunks. We also took advantage of a good grade discount. My son brought his report card along and they gave $10 off for each "A" up to 5.

We did enjoy a hearty breakfast in the lodge before checking out and were able to take in the breathtaking morning view.

The property also includes 25-fully-furnished cottages and the lodge has a total of 50 rooms.

For those who love the outdoors, you'll be in paradise. Just one warning - from someone who spends most of their time driving the very flat terrain around Chicago, I had a bit of a white-knuckle drive through the hilly area in the dark getting to the lodge - which if I had planned better and left in the very early morning would have been much easier to maneuver in daylight when I arrived.

Shawnee Lodge is a perfect place to relax on a rocking chair on the porch as you enjoy nature and escape the hectic pace of everyday life. For more information, visit ShawneeParkLodge.com.




Sunday, March 12, 2017

Carew Tower Observation Deck in Cincinnati


I've always been one who enjoys getting a birds eve view whenever I can. I love seeing Chicago from the top of the Willis Tower (Sears Tower to longtime Chicagoans) or the John Hancock Center or the ferris wheel at Navy Pier. I loved flying over Niagra Falls in a helicopter. I enjoyed dining at Nick and Nino's in Springfield from the 30th floor. If there's a tourist destination somewhere up in the sky that gives me a great view, I'm all over it.

So, when I was traveling through Ohio last month and decided to spend a couple days in Cincinnati, I was excited to see that there was an observation deck at the top of the Carew Tower where I could look out at the Cincinnati skyline, the many bridges that cross over the Ohio River and the river towns in Kentucky.

Construction on the building began in January, 1930 and they set a record by setting 15,000 tons of steel framework in only 61 days. The building has beautiful art deco accents, including 23 elevators that shuttle visitors up and down quickly - just 32 seconds to go 574 feet. 

To get to the 49th floor observation deck at the top, you switch elevators and then have to make your last light by way of stairs. The observation deck is outdoors and completely open, something I wasn't expecting. But, since we were visiting on a very unseasonably warm weekend where it hit 70 degrees in February - it couldn't have been a more perfect time to visit. 

If you find yourself in Cincinnati, be sure to take time for a visit. The observation deck is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Also, keep in mind that they take cash only, so be prepared so that you don't have to make your way back down to search for an ATM. Admission is $4 for ages 12 and under, $2 for age 6 - 11 and free for 5 and under.
We were staying at the Residence Inn by Marriott in the historic Phelps Building, which was just a few blocks away. And, as I mentioned, we had perfect weather so it was a great time to take a walk and explore the downtown area. I would highly recommend it for lodging, especially if you are traveling with kids.

Portsmouth, Ohio

I took a recent road trip with two of my boys to Ohio. My 17-year-old will be graduating from high school this spring and was interested visiting Shawnee State University's campus in Portsmouth, Ohio. So, we were there for just a day and spent most of that time touring the campus, but should it be where he ends up going to school the next four years, it's an area I'd love to explore more.

Portsmouth (which I understand is pronounced Portsmith by locals) is situated in the Ohio River Valley in Scioto County in south-central Ohio. The campus sits just along the Ohio River with a pretty view of the Kentucky mountains on the other side. The U.S. Grant Bridge is a beautiful structure that can be seen as you make your way around the downtown area.

The town's Historic Boneyfiddle District is known for its antique shops and dining. The flood wall murals artistically portray the history of Portsmouth and was declared the largest continual work of art by a single artist.

We also paid a visit to Shawnee State Park, which was just about 20 minutes away.

For more information on Portsmouth, visit ohiorivertourism.org.

Looking through town at the U.S. Grant Bridge and into Kentucky.


Heading onto the U.S. Grant Bridge heading into Kentucky.


Coming into Kentucky across the U.S. Grant Bridge from Portsmouth.


My sons on the campus of Shawnee State University with the U.S. Grant Bridge in the background.