My husband is an alumnus and avid fan of The Ohio State University (I hope this won’t deter any Michigan or Penn State supporters from reading on), which means every couple of years or so, he longs to return to the banks of the Olentangy River to cheer on his beloved Buckeyes. While we have gone as a couple before, we had never gone as a family, so we decided to take the brood back to Columbus for OSU’s homecoming weekend.
My husband and I agreed driving would be the best option for our family. Flying with young kids can be tricky, and we felt stopping midway in Pennsylvania from New York to Ohio would make the journey more comfortable for everyone. We chose the Holiday Inn Express in Dubois, Pa., for its convenient location and high recommendation. The hotel met all of my expectations for the Holiday Inn brand and was a great choice for an overnight before we continued on to Columbus.
With two small kids in tow, I knew we would have to take a few breaks along the way. Of course many of these were quick food stops at rest areas along the highway, I wanted to take advantage of having a car to see some of the more unusual sites along the way. Using RoadsideAmerica.com, I was able to map out our route and learned there was a life-sized replica of Tow Mater from the popular Cars movie franchise. Both of our boys love the films, so we made a quick detour in Burbank, Oh., to check out the old tow truck that was transformed into Mater.
After saying goodbye to Mater, we continued on to Columbus. We arrived safely to the lovely Victorian, which, thanks to AirbnbAirbnb, would serve as our home for the weekend. As a first-time user of Airbnb, I was pleased with the experience. The house was in beautiful condition, the host was responsive and helpful and the value for the location could not be beat. Plus, as a mom, I appreciate the comforts of a kitchen and other essentials that make my life easier. Both of my kids loved the opportunity to live in a different type of home, my eldest even asked to stay there again, a great endorsement, I must say.
We began our visit by bringing our boys to The Ohio State University homecoming parade. I am from New York City, where our there weren’t many football teams, and I went on to go to a college without a football team, so the whole “homecoming” concept is fairly new to me. The parade was quite a spectacle, and the on-and-off rain did not stop the large crowds from gathering on campus to cheer on the marchers. The highlight, for me, of course was The Ohio State University Marching Band. These young people are incredible, and I would very proud if either of my children filled their shoes some day.
The Ohio State University campus is beautiful, and even on that unseasonably warm October weekend, our kids got a chance to see the place where their dad spent his college career. The highlight for my son was “The Whispering Wall,” which sadly, I am reading is going to be torn down. (If anyone can confirm one way or the other, please comment!) Of course, because this is Ohio State, we did a bit of tailgating, and my youngest was very eager to check out a beer pong game some college kids were playing near by, a little too soon, kid!
While OSU is an integral part of the city, Columbus has much to offer beyond the university. It is a lively community with a thriving art scene and lots of yummy food options. One of my favorite spots to check out while I am there is Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. You can get this delicious ice cream — a favorite of Oprah — in grocery stores throughout the country, but there is nothing like treating yourself to a fresh scoop or two at their shop in The Short North district.
We closed our Columbus visit by checking out the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Renowned as one of the best zoos in the world, I was eager to go, perhaps even more so than anyone else in our family. The zoo is located in Dublin, a beautiful suburb just north of the heart of Columbus.
The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium is massive, and our family only managed to see a small fraction of what this world class zoo has to offer. What I have learned, from traveling with kids, is that it is okay not to check off every item. Our two boys delighted in watching penguins dive in and out of their watery habitat and seeing some giant sharks and rays up close. Their favorite part was likely Stings, Wings ‘N Playthings, the zoo’s super fun outdoor playground, which is free with admission.
On our way home, we once again spent the night in Dubois, Pa., then continued on to New York. Before we got home, we made one quick stop in Scranton, where we found the real life “Poor Richard’s” of “The Office” fame. Housed in the South Side Bowl bowling alley, this bar and restaurant served as the inspiration for Dundler Mifflin’s favorite watering hole. While seeing the bar was of more interest to my husband and myself, our kids were excited to go bowling, and this was actually a great place for young people. Not to brag, but I dominated our game of bumper bowl.
This was our longest road trip to date with our two children, and overall, I say it went fairly well. We managed to keep the kids entertained with old-fashioned games, music and conversation. Sure, they got antsy, but who doesn’t after a long drive? I look forward to our next adventure.