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!


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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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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The Winking Lizard ~ Peninsula, Ohio

Our final lunch in the Cuyahoga Valley area may have been my favorite restaurant near the park. The Winking Lizard is a fine place to dine if you are jumping off the Cuyahoga Scenic Railroad tour and need a quick bite and also has ample parking for those touring the area by car as well.

The restaurant is of course aptly named, because their very own “lizard” is front and center when you enter the dining area.

As we were there for lunch, we opted to just order appetizers for our meal. Andrew of course went for the Mac and Cheese wedges. (He somehow managed to have Mac and Cheese in some form every day of this trip!) These were more of a Kraft Mac that was deep fried, but still tasty. I opted for the Soft Pretzel Bavarian Pretzel Sticks. They came with a side of cheese sauce and mustard, but as I don’t enjoy mustard, I just asked for double cheese. These were plenty filling and I had a few extra to take along for later. Note that this is just a standard nacho cheese dipping sauce rather than bier cheese as you can find in some places that offer pretzel sticks/bites. Either way, they are delightful!

We had eyed up the dessert option before even ordering, so we made sure to leave some space and ordered a slice of their Cookies and Cream Pie to share. It was so super tasty!

The Winking Lizard has a perfect laid back sports bar atmosphere and our server was phenomenal. I do recommend arriving early as I’m sure the place fills up when the train that travels through the National Park rolls through and stops at the Peninsula station. We actually had the joy of seeing it roll in right as we were leaving at the end of our meal. We didn’t pay to ride it through the park this visit, but it was still pretty neat to see!

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Viaduct Park ~ Bedford, Ohio

Our third day in the Cuyahoga Valley region of Ohio was due to bring a lot of rain and storms, but we decided to venture out into the drizzly weather for as long as we could. We started our morning on the hunt for another waterfall, and it might have been my favorite of the trip.

Viaduct Park is hidden away in a more industrial part of town. There is a parking lot and when we arrived we were the only ones there. Right away you will notice some signage that discusses the viaduct and its historical use with the railroad.

This area was known for the electric company that took advantage of this creek area to harness some power. You can take a trail down towards the Falls of Tinkers Gorge and see many remains of old brick buildings and tunnels used during this process. It was really pretty neat!

While this waterfall is not the most impressive set of falls I’ve ever seen, I really enjoyed them as we had the park to ourselves and could really just enjoy exploring the history of the area and take in the beauty of the falls.

I highly recommend taking a trek over to this area of the Bedford Reservation if you are ever in the area. It really was a unique portion of the park and had some stunning beauty.

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Whitey’s Burgers and Booze ~ Richfield, Ohio

Our second evening in Ohio, we decided to try a local restaurant just down the road from our hotel. The place was already packed at 5pm so it clearly is a place people like to hit up for happy hour after work.

The inside area was very dark, so I was more than happy to take a seat out on their patio area. This patio space is very much an open “garage” space, so they can easily close it off if the weather wasn’t as nice on a particular day. It was hot the day we were there, but still pretty tolerable as they whole space is covered with a roof.

One other important thing to note about Whitey’s is that they are a cash or local check place only! This worked just fine for us as we always travel with some cash on trips, but if you are used to just card, they did have an ATM just inside the door for you to pull out some cash to use.

Whitey’s had a lot of variety on their menu: appetizers, burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, and even some entrees like Mac and Cheese. Andrew being the Mac and Cheese lover that is is went with that option, while I ordered myself a cheese pizza with white sauce.

As you can see, the Mac and Cheese had a variety of meat toppings you could add in. Andrew opted for crumbled hamburger. It also came with a salad and a side. Since Andrew didn’t want a salad, they offered him two sides instead, so he had fries and hushpuppies. He declared them some of the best hush puppies he’s had.

My pizza was super good but very filling. I had about 2/3 of it that night and took the rest as leftovers. The white sauce has a lot of garlic flavor, which was great for a garlic lover like me, but something to be aware of if it’s not your thing.

We were especially impressed with how quick our food arrived despite them warning that they cook everything after you order to ensure its freshness. A lot of times ordering either of these options at a restaurant can be a hefty wait, but I think our wait was 15 minutes or less from when we ordered!

Whitey’s was pretty tasty and somewhere I would recommend if you are ever in the area, but it wasn’t at the top of our list for places to eat out either! Definitely filling, a quick meal, and does provide a decent amount of leftovers!

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Sims Park ~ Euclid, Ohio

As I eluded to in the previous post, our one other main goal while in Ohio was a chance to visit Lake Erie for the first time. Finding a “beach like” area actually proved trickier than we thought, but we finally settled on Sims Park in Euclid as it seemed to have a nice area to park and had decent access to a beach area so that we could officially stick our feet into the third Great Lake we have visited together.

Sims Park is just off of a the interstate and a busier street runs to the south of the park. It is not very clearly labeled, so we nearly missed the turn into the park entrance. This park had a lot to offer, including a historic mansion, playground, and disc golf course. It was pretty hot that day, so we took a pass on the round of disc golf and headed straight down to the beach.

This beach area had plenty of room for groups/families to spread out while still maintaining a small beach atmosphere. There were about 5 other groups there when we visited, which seeing as how it was a hot day, helped this beach still feel like a hidden gem. Much of the beach was rockier as seen in the photo above.

We spent a bit of time wading in the waters of Lake Erie, and then walked further east to explore the pier area that appears to be a recent addition to the park. I few people were using that space to get some fishing done, but I’m not sure they were having much luck.

If you are looking for a nice place to spend an afternoon enjoying the lake, I highly recommend giving this park a try!

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day 2 ~ Peninsula, Ohio

When we awoke on our second day in Ohio near Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a quick check of the weather forecast over the next few days showed us that we needed to attempt to cram as much as possible into Day 2 of our time in Ohio since Day 3 had lots of storms and rain predicted. Here’s a breakdown of our whirlwind time in Cuyahoga Valley National Park on Day 2 of our adventures.

We began our day driving to nearly the southern most portion of the park to hike the Beaver Marsh portion of the Towpath Trail. This started out as a gravel path, quickly turned to boardwalk, and then returned to more gravel further north on the trail. At the trailhead there was a nice description that shared the differences between otters and beavers.

This area of the trail was especially fun. There were lots of birds hanging around the marsh and when we reached an overlook section there was a giant snapping turtle hanging out in the water. From there we walked a little further north on the trail and once we had turned around to begin heading back to the parking lot, we saw an otter swimming out in the distance. It was pretty cool to see so much wildlife in just a mile stretch of trail.

From there we headed back north towards the middle of the park on the east side and explored the Ledges Trail. The parking area for this gives no indication that this is anything special. There’s a large park shelter, a huge open field, and a trail that runs along the perimeter of the field. BUT…take that trail further into the woods and you come across a whole new atmosphere! So many fun rock outcroppings. It doesn’t take long to reach the Ledges overlook. The overlook was fun, but more fun was the trail we took to reach the bottom of the Ledges as we could meander under the rocks!

From here we decided to head into the nearby town of Macedonia for lunch as they had several fast food options in the area. After we had enjoyed a nice lunch in the car of Chick-fil-a, it was time for our third stop in Cuyahoga Valley National Park: The Canal Exploration Center.

This area clearly is a nice visitor center/museum space in non-pandemic years, but for us, we were simply able to explore the grounds of the area. Even without the museum area being open, I highly recommend stopping into this area as they have a detailed explanation of how the locks along the canal work. It’s the one lock that is still considered functional in the area. They also had a nice display about the mules that worked along the towpath.

From there it was time to venture outside of the park as we had one more important stop in the area we didn’t want to miss out on: Lake Erie. But that’s a tale for another post!

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Fishers Cafe and Pub ~ Peninsula, Ohio

As I mentioned in the post about our first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, various town’s are located within the park grounds. One of the most popular towns in Peninsula, so it’s no surprise we dined twice in the town during our stay! Our first night there, we enjoyed a light dinner of appetizers at Fishers Cafe and Pub. You’ll have to excuse the fact that I have no photos to share of our time there, as I posted to Instagram and then promptly deleted them and can’t seem to get them downloaded again from Instagram. So if you want photos, go check out the post for sitesandbites on that app!

Fishers had both indoor and outdoor seating, but we opted for indoor as it was quite warm that day! Even though their booths are close together, they have placed partitions between them to help with pandemic comfort/restrictions. It was fairly early for dinner when stopped in, so we nearly had the entire dining room to ourselves.

We each ordered an appetizer as our “meal.” I went for their boneless wings coated in Spicy Garlic sauce. They have a ton of choices for sauces or dry rubs so you should be able to find something for all tastes! Andrew ordered the Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese Bites, which were deep fried and filled with gooey mac and cheese. The mac and cheese was also much more homemade than other mac and cheese bites we’ve had in the past.

After our dinner, we drove up near the Peninsula Train Station and parked in a nearby lot so we could walk more of the Towpath Trail. This part of the trail was much prettier than the section near the Boston Mills Visitor Center and had a nice display on the old locks and how they worked. The trail was very wooded and we also walked further south to another lock which is part of Deep Lock Quarry Metropark. More details were near that one that explained about that “deepest” lock on the canal.

On our way back to the parking lot, we also got to watch a class of kayakers learning how to navigate this rapidly moving part of the river. I can’t say that I would have wanted to be in there with them!

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Cuyahoga Valley National Park Day 1 ~ Cleveland Area, Ohio

On our latest trip, our large “destination” to visit was Cuyahoga Valley National Park located just south of Cleveland. The park itself is very urban and protects the Cuyahoga River, famous for being so polluted back in the day, that it caught fire! Due to the “urban” nature of the park, you drive through many small towns as you cruise the main park road. It also means you can see most of the park in 1-2 days, but plan to spend more time as there are several other city and metropark areas that are adjacent to the park that are super fun to explore as well! Here’s everything we saw in the park on our first day there!

Like all good visitors, we of course started our journey at the Boston Mills visitor center just after noon the day we arrived. You can access the inside portion that has a few exhibits and store, but that first day, we took advantage of their outdoor ranger set up, collected a map, stamped our passport, and sat down to decide what to tackle that first afternoon.

One of the main things the park is known for is sitting along the historic Ohio-Erie Canal. The towpath of the old canal has since been turned into a wonderful hiking/biking path along the river. You can easily access a portion of the towpath by crossing the bridge near the visitor center. We did just that a took a nice walk south on the path. Due to the urban nature of the park, this meant we walked as far as the interstate overpass above the path and then turned back towards the visitor center. It was hot that day and that portion of the trail was not overly scenic, so we figured we would explore another well visited spot of the park.

Our next spot to explore in the park that day was Brandywine Falls. This is an especially popular part of the park and sometimes parking fills up, but even when we arrived at 3pm, there were a handful of spots still open for us. This hike was gorgeous, but be prepared for lots of steps. The whole trail is a boardwalk type system, but lots and lots of stairs! You won’t be disappointed when you reach the viewing point of the falls though! They have both an upper and lower viewing point, but I think the lower was my favorite!

Due to spending the morning on the road and the high temperatures, we opted to head towards our hotel following our time at Brandywine Falls. We knew we had two more days in the area, so there was no rush to pack in everything the park had to offer! More details will follow over the coming days of everything else we explored!

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