I was invited to a dinner at Favorites Steak & Pasta at Belterra Park Gaming & Entertainment Center. A casino doesn’t typically come to mind when I’m thinking about dining options but I discovered that Favorites Steak & Pasta was determined to change that.
I discovered Oldenburg, Indiana on a whim. My boys and I were traveling back from Indy and my curiosity won. Known as the Village of the Spires, Oldenburg’s German heritage and charm makes it a great daytrip getaway located about an hour from Cincinnati.
When we have guests in from out of town, we typically take them to Goodfellas Pizzeria in the Mainstrasse Village in Covington,KY for a few reasons.
The Schoolhouse Restaurant is a dining destination that I’ve had on my list for almost a year.
I love any excuse for a sweet treat. That’s why I was really excited when I received an invitation to a tasting to try a classic Frisch’s Big Boy dessert created with a holiday twist, along with an opening night viewing of “The Nutcracker” by the Cincinnati Ballet.
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has been a popular tourist destination for generations of families. In fact, I remember visits to Shaker Village from my childhood. As an adult, I got to experience a visit with a fresh perspective and appreciation. One of the first things you will notice when you step on the property is how peaceful it is there. It looks like an old New England town with 34 of the 260 original structures still on the property. The road between the buildings was once the main road that took travelers to Lexington into the 1970’s. Shaker Village has become a recent Discovery Destination because of all of the hands on engagement opportunities available to visitors.
So who were the Shakers?
The Shakers were America’s largest and best known 19th century communal society. A small group of them came to Central Kentucky in 1805, and on a small farm near Harrodsburg they started a community called Pleasant Hill. By 1823 it had grown to Shakers and 4500 acres.
I learned several interesting things about the Shakers during my visit. They were a celibate community which is why the community died out over time but they were not opposed to alcohol. At the peak of it’s day there were around 6,000 members. 3/4 of the kids in the community eventually left. They received an 8th grade education and a trade. The Shakers believed that their work was worship and were known for their quality craftsmanship. They were also known for their quality livestock, packaged seeds (which they invented) medicinal herbs, and brooms (they sold about 50,000 brooms a year).The name “Shaker” was a description of how they moved during their services. Their official name was “United Society of Believer’s in Christ’s 2nd Coming.” They were progressive for their time because they believed in gender and racial equality. They also avoided a lot of epidemics because they were so clean and lived on average 20-30 years longer.
Make sure that you don’t leave the property without enjoying a meal. The farm to table restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you have never tried the lemon pie, I would highly recommend it. They still use the original Shaker recipe and it’s unlike any lemon pie I’ve ever had before. It’s made with the entire lemon rind and has no seeds. While you are dining, take note of the pegs in every room. The Shakers were very practical in their simplicity and the pegs offered a lot of solutions for keeping areas clean and tidy. They could even adjust the light in a room by adjusting their candleholder up or down on the peg.
While you are on the property, there are several buildings to explore. I encourage you to ask lots of questions when you encounter a historical reenactor. It is also a good idea to get a schedule of activities going on that day so that you don’t miss any of the hands on demonstrations, performances, or tours.
If you are looking for a unique gift to remember your visit, there are two areas on the property where you can purchase gifts.
That afternoon we took a tour of the property by hayride. We enjoyed a Bourbon Mulled cider, gorgeous scenery, an education on communal farming, and a beautiful Kentucky sunset.
That evening we took a candlelight tour led by visitor engagement coordinator, Elsa Wachter. This experience gave us a unique perspective and the opportunity to ask as many questions as we could think of. She was a wealth of information and made the tour very interesting.
That evening, I stayed overnight on the third floor of the Trustees’ office which gave me a nice view of the other buildings. My room had a Keurig, private bathroom, and television. I decided to stay partially unplugged by keeping my tv turned off that evening. I really enjoyed the quiet. There are 72 overnight guest rooms throughout the village. If you have younger kids, you might want one of the options that is more private. There are some buildings where you could be the only guests.
The following day, I took a few final views of the grounds before we departed.
I was sad to leave this charming destination but I definitely want to come back again to try out some of their more unique adventures that Shaker Village offers like the GLOW Paddle. I really want to try their Paddle + Yoga Weekends too. Shaker Village offers lots of opportunities to connect and explore for ages young and old year round. You can find out more for planning your visit to the 3,000 acre Shaker Village by visiting their website.
Wooster, Ohio is a charming city that kind of takes you by surprise. Wooster is located in Wayne County which is a little over an hours drive from Cleveland, 1.5 hours from Columbus and a little over 3 hours from Cincinnati.
There are certain holiday traditions that our family has every year in Cincinnati. One of them is attending Festival of Lights at the Cincinnati Zoo. I’ve been going to Festival of Lights with my family ever since I was a little kid. I brought my boyfriend turned husband, to Festival of Lights when he visited my hometown during college break and now I’m creating memories with my own kids.
The more that I explore Cincinnati, the more I realize that there is still so much to uncover. The first time that I was introduced to Henke Winery was during a tour with Cincy Wine Wagon. It was the last stop on our tour and it blew my mind that I never knew that Cincinnati had an urban winery on the west side.
My first visit to Englewood, Florida was a bit of a surprise. I would describe Englewood as one of Florida’s best kept secrets. It’s not your typical tourist destination because you don’t see a lot of attractions and tourists shops saturated in the area.
The atmosphere in this community is very laid back. The crowds are lighter which allows you to just enjoy nature and the local restaurants with great seafood nearby without really long lines. Englewood is located less than an hour’s drive from the Punta Gorda Airport, with inexpensive flights from Allegiant Airlines making it an affordable option for someone who would rather fly and rent a car than drive.
Explore Stump Pass Beach State Park
Stump Pass Beach State Park is so peaceful and offers a unique landscape with trails and lots of tree stumps along the shoreline. You might notice several areas marked off on the beach that are designed to protect the sea turtle nests. If you get the opportunity to watch one hatch or return to the ocean, depending on the time of year that you visit, you will have the memory of a lifetime.
There is a 1.3 mile hiking trail that will give you the opportunity to see lots of wildlife.
There are many types of birds in the state park and you also might see a few starfish, a manatee, dolphin, or a really big fish. I would suggest taking a SUP tour so that you know where and what to look for in and around the water.
Take a SUP Paddleboard and Snorkel Tour
I’m all about stepping outside of my comfort zone which is why this adventure was both exciting for me and also made me a little nervous. I’ve tried SUP before, but not in water located near the ocean.
The beauty of taking a SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) tour with Hooked on SUP is that you can do whatever you are comfortable with. The gear was brought to us at Stump Pass Beach State Park.
My husband found certain positions on the board to be more comfortable than others due to an old football injury, but the impressive part was that he tried it for the 1st time and discovered what worked for him. He didn’t hesitate at all when it was time to snorkel, but this Midwest girl took a little longer to ease into the water. It was definitely out of my comfort zone, which is why it was important for me to do it.
My fears did not come to pass and I can now proudly say that I snorkeled in an area called “Rag Alley” which definitely made it sound more a little more edgy. It was the perfect way to experience the water and wildlife.
Where to Stay
Weston’s wannaB Inn is a vintage gem located next door to Stump Pass Beach State Park. Now when I say next door, I mean next door. I could literally see the state park sign next to the parking lot of our motel. The beauty of that means that guests at Weston’s WannaB Inn get the spoiled feeling of having a beach pretty much to themselves.
The rooms have a retro vibe with a mini kitchen and the views from your balcony that are fantastic. There are 2 heated pools, bikes available for rent, a private beach, and free wifi.
Find the perfect beach souvenir
There are so many beautiful shells along the beach in Englewood. We were also told that you can find shark’s teeth. You could easily make an adventure out of finding the most unique seashell to take home with you to remember your wonderful visit.
If I were planning ahead, I would have gone to the local grocery store to gets lots of food during our visit….but I actually enjoy going out to eat when I visit a destination, which means that I’m not much of a cook when I’m away…so I’ll give you a few suggestions.
Enjoy a lively nightlight, a large outdoor seating area with outdoor music, ping pong, bean bag toss, and excellent fish tacos at Flounder’s Restaurant and Tiki Bar, try at Grouper Rocket (Fried grouper with melted swiss, thousand island dressing & cole slaw on grilled rye bread) and take advantage of happy hour at Lock ‘N Key Restaurant with a pull tab that could result in a full, half price or $.50 drink, and a special dinner with a great ambiance starting with the West Indian Conch Fritters appetizers that are a nod to the owner’s upbringing in St. Croix at Farlow’s on the Water.
Witness the Magic of Golden hour
I recommend waking up early to watch the sunrise at least once during your visit and make sure that you also make a point to watch each sunset. They are very unique and magical every. single. time. The clear, warm water on the Gulf side and beautiful beaches are hard to beat. I’m sharing this gem with you but don’t tell too many people, ok?
Thanks again to Charlotte Harbor for hosting our visit. All opinions are my own.