Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve ~ Grafton, Wisconsin

As promised, here’s another favorite old haunt we visited while back in the Cedarburg area in July. Lion’s Den Gorge is a beautiful nature preserve located along the bluffs of Lake Michigan. We arrived mid morning on a Sunday thinking it would still be an early time to explore, but boy were we wrong! The parking lot was packed and we actually just had to park along the side of the roadway into the preserve.

There are a few porta-potties located near the parking lot and then a map of the area. We began our hike that day by taking the bluff trail for some nice scenic views as we hiked down into the gorge and toward the lake. You can take this trail all the way down to where wooden steps and bridges have been built that lead all the way down to Lake Michigan. Be prepared for lots of stair steps if you go all the way down!

The beach area is more rocks than sand, but is such a nice place to sit and relax. There’s plenty of space to spread out even on a busier day.

On our way back up the trail we opted to take the gravel path back to the car instead of the bluff path. The gravel path simply takes you along the edge of the woods and has a prairie to the other side, but is more of a straight shot in and out versus the bluff path that weaves along the edge of the lake and the woods.

For a fairly simple and short hike, this is a beautiful area to explore!

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24 Hours of Memories ~ Cedarburg, Wisconsin

As we made our way home from Cuyahoga Valley in July, we had one more stop we had to make along the way. This was to our first home of Cedarburg. We had so many fun places we wanted to revisit during our trip down memory lane. I’ll have a few posts dedicated to some places outside of Cedarburg, but here’s what we visited in town. (And one outside of town.)

The first place was actually outside of Cedarburg as Andrew wanted to stop by and visited Concordia Wisconsin’s campus as an alum. They have a gorgeous path you can walk down along the bluff that leads to a small little beach area on Lake Michigan. The lake was a perfect shade of blue the evening we visited.

After dinner, our next spot to visit was Amy’s Candy Kitchen. They are known for their candied apples, but Andrew loves their chocolate covered pretzel rods, and I’m a sucker for their sea salt chocolate meltaways. We took them over to the picturesque bridge area of the Interurban Trail that runs through town.

We spent the night in a private room AirBnB in town and enjoyed getting to know our host family and their young boys. It was a real treat to share bedtime stories with them. The next morning we grabbed muffins from the Kwik Trip (this used to be a locally owned PDQ station that had the most amazing muffins, but now switched to the more common Kwik Trip chain.) Then it was time for breakfast in Covered Bridge Park. We used to bring picnics here all the time.

We loved the two years we lived in this quaint little town and loved having a chance to revisit some of our favorite places. I’ll share a few more places from the surrounding area over the course of the week!

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Connecticut Bucket List ~ Hartford Region

Today we explore the capitol region of the state!

East Haddam

  • Devil’s Hopyard State Park: Beautiful area to hike with a waterfall.

East Windsor

  • Connecticut Trolley Museum: Explore this history of the trolley in the region.

Hartford

  • Connecticut State Capitol: Visit the state house.
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe Center: Visit the home of the famous abolitionist.

Manchester

  • Wickham Park: Beautiful park with walking trails and nice views.

Middletown

  • Wadsworth Falls State Park: Park features a gorgeous waterfall.

Wethersfield

  • Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum: Tour three restored 18th century homes.

All attractions found on http://www.ctvisit.com

Hampton Inn ~ Richfield, Ohio

Hampton Inn tends to be our hotel chain of choice when traveling as their service tends to be a little nicer than some, pre-pandemic they had nice warm breakfast options, and I have a nice points system running with my Hilton Honors membership. It seemed like a no brainer to book at the Hampton in Richfield when traveling to Cuyahoga Valley National Park as it was just a 10-15 minute drive from the park. Sadly this was one of the most disappointing Hampton stays we’ve had in a long time.

Right away we were thrown off by the fact that we followed “masking” signs on the front door and the very cranky lady working the front desk rolled her eyes and told us if we were vaccinated there was no need to wear one despite that signs, that “they just hadn’t bothered to update signage yet.” Ok? Well don’t get mad at us for following what was being displayed!

She booked us into a room on the first floor, which was nice as it was just down the hall from a side entrance and we could have our car parked very close to have it visible from the room. She also informed us that stays that lasted longer than a night (we would be there 3) did not have daily room service and that if we needed more towels during our stay to bring old ones down to trade in for new. (This comes into play later.) We normally don’t do room service at all during our stays, so that was just fine by us.

The hotel was very busy all three days we were there despite it being the middle of the week. The first night we had particularly loud neighbors for much of the evening. (This Beavis and Butthead being your next door neighbors) but I think they drunk laughed themselves to sleep by late evening when we wanted to also sleep. So not too much harm done.

The one downfall to our room was that there was no vent fan in the bathroom. As you can imagine, this meant that our towels never really dried over night or during the day. Given we were out hiking we always showered at the end of the day, as well as morning showers. The room came supplied with 4 bath towels, so we used two the first night/next morning, and two the following night, and then decided we would go trade them in as had been the suggestion so we could have some fresh clean towels for our final night/morning. When Andrew opted to take the dirty down the person working the desk had one on hand to replace and said the rest were in the wash but to come back later. When we did, it was just our luck that cranky lady was back at work. She was on the phone on hold with Lord knows who and already seemed perturbed that we were wanting her assistance. When she finally gave us the time of day, we explained that we had brought 4 towels down earlier but they had only had one to give us, so could we now get the other three. She very snootily replied “what you need 7 towels for 2 people?” Ummm no. We already left our 4 old ones down here. We want the replacements please. She very reluctantly offered us 2 and said that was the best she could do.

This Hampton was offering a bag breakfast that still complied with their “pandemic rules” but did have an open pool (which looked disgusting and like it had stagnant water in it, so we avoided it at all costs.) They also still had their coffee area open at all times a day which meant people still lingered in the breakfast area in the morning. It was frustrating to see how many things they still wanted to use “pandemic restrictions” for where it allowed them to safe money (ie housekeeping or lack there of and bagged breakfasts) but then didn’t care at all about the mask restriction signs, communal coffee area, or an open pool. If you want more restrictions, great, but if you aren’t going to follow through with all of them, just the ones that save you money, don’t blame the pandemic, blame your poor budget.

All this being said, it really turned us off of staying in hotels and has a strongly considering only Airbnb for many future travels. I know hotels had a rough time with the pandemic, but still, try your best to give us decent service when we do choose to stay!

Connecticut Bucket List ~ Mystic Country Region

Today we begin a new state in our Bucket List series: Connecticut. This state, despite its small size, is split into five distinct regions. We begin with Mystic Country.

Groton

  • Historic Ship Nautilus and Submarine Force Museum: Learn all about the history of submarines and their use in the Navy.

Ledyard

  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum: Learn all about this Native American tribe that settled in the area.

New London

  • Fort Trumball State Park: Tour this coastal fortress.

Oakdale

  • The Dinosaur Place: This fun park features several nature trails that are filled with dinosaur sculptures.

Stonington

  • Old Lighthouse Museum: Beautiful stone lighthouse on the coast.

Waterford

  • Waterford Beach State Park: Great place to visit the ocean in Connecticut.

All attractions found on http://www.ctvisit.com

Cozumel Mexican Restaurant ~ Richfield, Ohio

On our final night near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, we decided to treat ourselves to “after dinner” drinks since we had used leftovers that night as our dinner. We aren’t ones to normally splurge on drinks when out to eat, but since we hadn’t officially spent money on dinner, this seemed like a fun option. The best part for us was that this place was located right next door to our hotel.

Because we typically eat dinner earlier than most people, we avoided the normal nightly rush this place appeared to get each night. When we went in, we opted to be seated in the bar area since we were just planning on drinks anyways. We were still seated at a high top in that area which gave us a bit more privacy than just sitting at the bar. Of course as is standard in most Mexican places, we were brought over some complimentary chips and salsa.

The salsa has really good flavor and was just the thing to complement our sweet daiquiris. They had several flavors to choose from for both daiquiris and margaritas, but I opted for strawberry and Andrew tried the peach. Both had good flavor.

Grabbing drinks was a nice treat for us, but of course the prices reminded us of why we do this only once or twice a year! We like to keep our travels super budget friendly, so this was a rare splurge for us. They looked to have an extensive food menu as well, so when in they area, be sure to check them out!

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Rhode Island Bucket List ~ South County Region

Final region to focus on for Rhode Island in our bucket list series! I’ll be taking a week hiatus from the bucket list posts and then returning with Connecticut in early September!

Coventry

  • General Nathanael Green Homestead: Home of the famed Revolutionary War general.

Narragansett

  • Point Judith Lighthouse: Lighthouse protects confluence of two waterways.
  • Towers of Narragansett: Iconic structures in the area.
  • Whale Rock Lighthouse: Located on the smallest island in Narragansett Bay.

North Kingstown

  • Plum Beach Lighthouse: Small sparkplug lighthouse visible from the bridge.

Westerly

  • Watch Hill Lighthouse: A beacon has existed here since the French and Indian War.

All attractions found on visitrhodeisland.com

Brecksville Reservation ~ Brecksville, Ohio

Following our lunch at the Winking Lizard, we seemed to still be getting lucky with the rainy day weather, so we opted to head on over to Brecksville Reservation, another Metropark area that sits adjacent to Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We entered this park from the west entrance along the main road through the National Park.

The first thing we encountered was a fun walking path that had a “fitness trail” along it. We parked by a bridge and did the western part first (which was a little out of order numerically, and then finished with others on the east side of the bridge.

On the way back to our vehicle it was a little bit rainy and we opted to take the Cedar Trail back through the woods for a nice scenic walk along the creek and over a small suspension bridge.

From there we drove towards the middle of the park and made a stop in the Brecksville Nature Center where we got to learn about wildlife local to the area. Outside this Nature Center they also have some very nice park bathrooms, probably the nicest park bathrooms I’ve ever used.

From there we drove towards the north entrance of the park to check out the Chippewa Creek Gorge Scenic Overlook. This was a nice area, but even hiking down the path a little ways didn’t provide as nice of view as I was expecting.

Our final stop in the park was a bit further in towards the southwest portion of the park. We decided to explore the Deer Lick Cave Path. We weren’t quite sure what to expect and didn’t even start at the main trailhead, but where we entered the woods we continued clockwise. This first brought us to a “cave like” area that had a small waterfall and lots of fun creek area for us to play around in and explore. We thought this was the cave and were greatly enjoying it. Please note…..this was not the actual cave! If you reach this point, continue over that bridge shown below and keep going!

Luckily we did keep going over the bridge instead of turning back. This brought us to the real Deer Lick Cave and boy was it impressive! Pictures don’t do it justice, but due to the rainy weather that day, it even had a nice eerie fog/mist inside the cave that made it extra fun to explore!

If you have extra time while in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area, be sure to give Brecksville Reservation ample time on your schedule! It has a great variety of trails and is fun for all ages!

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Rhode Island Bucket List ~ Newport County Region

Today we explore Newport County in Rhode Island, a county filled with lighthouses, so it makes for a bit longer of a list.

Jamestown

  • Conanicut Battery National Historic Park: Small fort built during colonial times.
  • Beavertail Lighthouse and Museum: Located in Beavertail State Park, this is Rhode Island’s premier lighthouse.
  • Dutch Island Lighthouse: Sits on a rocky island.
  • Fort Getty: Campground area that used to house an old military fort.
  • Fort Wetherill State Park: Beautiful cliff area along the bay.

Little Compton

  • Sakonnet Point Lighthouse: View this plug lighthouse from the beach.

Middletown

  • Boyd’s Wind Grist Mill: Historic mill located in a park.

Newport

  • 1739 Colony House: First state house that held the colonial legislature.
  • Castle Hill Lighthouse: Active lighthouse located along the cliffs.
  • Cliff Walk: Walk the cliffs along the shore of the bay.
  • Eisenhower House: Summer White House of President Eisenhower.
  • Fort Adams State Park: Preserves a large coastal fortification.
  • Hogs Island Shoal Lighthouse: Sparkplug lighthouse located just off of Hogs Island.
  • Ida Lewis Rock Lighthouse: Lighthouse located in Newport Harbor.
  • National Museum of American Illustration: Mansion museum featuring American artwork.
  • Newport Harbor Lighthouse: Located at the end of Goat Island.
  • Newport Tower Museum: Explore this round tower located in a park.
  • Rose Island Lighthouse: Gorgeous lighthouse located on Rose Island.
  • U.S. Naval War College Museum: One of a few museums run by the U.S. Navy to provide history of the Navy.

Portsmouth

  • Prudence Island Lighthouse: Oldest lighthouse tower in the state.

Tiverton

  • Fort Barton: Natural area with several hiking trails.

All attractions found on visitrhodeisland.com