Why? Picnic with Heinen’s!

There’s nothing that says summer like a picnic! This past Fourth of July holiday, Matthew, Jeffrey, and I decided to look no further than our own backyard as the perfect spot for some al fresco munching.

If you regularly follow the happenings here, you’ll know we’ve been BUSY (even for us) lately. So the thought of spending time in our own backyard oasis sounded really appealing. Plus, Jeffrey could play in his pool, slide, play ball, and then nibble as he wanted.

I headed to Heinen’s to stock up for our personal picnic. Since it was the Fourth of July holiday, I decided to focus on foods that all come from the USA (and staying in Cleveland itself wherever possible.)

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Let’s start with the healthy choices:

Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries (bonus points for Fourth of July colors too) with Marzetti’s strawberry cream cheese fruit dip and Heinen’s roasted red pepper hummus with bell peppers.

There’s also nothing I love more than a cheese plate, so I scooped up a couple interesting cheeses from Heinen’s fabulous cheese department (pro tip: the “just enough” basket has smaller sizes of interesting cheeses that are perfect for two people.) I chose Carr Valley Cheese Cranberry Chipotle Cheddar and Beemster Mustard Seed.

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Plus, Volpi rose wine salami (rose all day, all ways), Heinen’s “everything” cheese crisps, and this olive and pepperoni salad from Heinen’s diverse olive bar rounded out our cheese portion.

And since I’m not a fan of olives, I picked up another nibble for myself: Heinen’s Cajun crab dip that can be found in the seafood department (if I haven’t eaten it all myself!)

For dessert, I grabbed three types of sweets that center on the classic summer dessert: s’mores!

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You could choose from Pepperidge Farm S’mores cookies, Mitchell’s Ice Cream Campfire S’mores, and the “build-your-own” version with the traditional Hershey’s chocolate or the fabulous Lilly Homemade Chocolates Cup O’Joe bar.

Of course, we needed to hydrate too. My summertime sipper staple this year is Ceidergeist Bubbles and Matthew enjoyed a Hyper Retro Saison from Platform Beer Co.

And while Jeffrey never wants to stop playing to eat too much, Heinen’s still had great options for him, from Great Lakes American cheese to Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers to Fruitables Apple Harvest juice boxes to a patriotic cookie fresh from the bakery.

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The grand total for all of this? I put together a huge, versatile, really high-quality picnic for $100! Whether your packing a picnic for the park, taking in the Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom, or simply for your own backyard, Heinen’s can you put you on the right track with great products, lots of local options, and specialty items that ensure a delicious meal in a basket.

***Disclosure: I was asked by Heinen’s to create a picnic and share my experience. I received a $100 Heinen’s gift card with which to shop. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

Whoa! What a kickoff to the Fourth of July long weekend…this past Friday through Sunday were packed with fun! On Friday, my sister-in-law Elizabeth and I went to the Total Package Tour, with Boyz II Men, Paula Abdul, and New Kids on the Block. But before we get to all the flashback fun, let’s talk about our pre-show dinner.

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We went to Bakersfield Tacos in Ohio City, which I had heard nothing but good things about. And the reviews were right! We started with drinks, of course. The spicy margarita packed some nice heat, but it was also just a really good margarita: smooth, and not overly sweet or syrupy.

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We shared the queso dip, which was flavorful and delicious, with light, crispy tortilla chips.

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Elizabeth and I ordered the same thing for dinner: the short rib tostada (essentially an open-faced taco) with tender short rib, fried egg, black beans, Bakersfield hot sauce, queso fresco, shredded romaine lettuce, and cilantro buttermilk ranch dressing.

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The flavors were delicious and the egg added a nice richness to the dish. I can’t wait to go back to Bakersfield and try some of the tacos and some more of their yummy drinks!

Then it was off to the concert. All of the acts sounded great and played all of their 80’s and 90’s hits, with plenty of dancing, light shows, and confetti to go along with them.

While NKOTB was on stage, they mentioned that they’ve been playing shows in Cleveland for 29 years now. I was at their shows that long ago (eek!) and it was so fun to be at another one and have just as much giddy excitement as back then!

On Saturday, we had another dinner in Ohio City and concert combo. Matthew and I met up with Alicia, as well as some of Matthew’s friends. We started with dinner at Townhall, which was absolutely packed between the gorgeous weather and lots of U2 fans grabbing a bite before the show.

I had the unfried chicken sandwich, which has cashew-crusted chicken, avocado, and spicy Bang Bang sauce. This huge, tasty sandwich might be my new Townhall favorite. The truffle fries were pretty amazing too!

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It was Alicia’s birthday, so of course a cookie skillet was part of the dinner and the birthday girl was kind enough to share some nibbles with all of us.

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From there, it was on to FirstEnergy Stadium for the U2 concert.

The band put on an incredible show! There’s something about a stadium show that is just very sweeping and grand and U2 definitely knows how to capitalize on that.

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There was a pretty stark difference between the concerts on Friday and Saturday night, but both played great shows in their own right and owned the niche they fit into.

Sunday, we headed up to Cedar Point for a day of family fun in the sun.

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Jeffrey loves the rides and kept insisting on one more ride, one more ride until we were all pretty beat!

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We ended the day with some Toft’s Ice Cream and headed home to rest up from a fun and crazy weekend!

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Why? Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum!

Where does every out-of-town guest first tell you they want to go when visiting Cleveland? The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, right? Well, having done many rounds of visits there, I’ll confess it had been awhile since I explored Cleveland’s best known attraction.

And what’s even crazier is that Matthew, a lifelong Clevelander, had never been to the Rock Hall!

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Last night, the World Union of Jesuit Alumni Congress, which is meeting at John Carroll University this week, held a cocktail reception at the Rock Hall. This gave us after-hours access to the Museum, with drinks and delicious nibbles, too.

If you haven’t been to the Museum in awhile, there are plenty of new and amazing things to discover!

The brand new Power of Rock Experience was not open last night, but opens to the public tomorrow, July 1. This experience is a film directed by Jonathan Demme, along with interactive exhibits, that takes you front and center for some of rock’s greatest performance and Rock Hall inductions.

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The All Access Café is open to all, even those not touring the Musuem, and features food from Jonathon Sawyer, Fabio Salerno, and Rocco Whalen, as well as beer on tap and wine.

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And of course, the Long Live Rock sign adds an incredible pop to the Museum’s iconic façade.

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The Rolling Stone: 50 Years special exhibit, which is open through Winter 2017, was my favorite part of our evening, with so many amazing photographs of iconic artists, as well as history of the magazine.

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The 2017 Inductees Exhibit, featuring Journey, Pearl Jam, Tupac Shakur, and more, was also really cool to see.

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Plus, there’s the permanent collection, including on-stage costumes and instruments…

…and a tribute to Cleveland’s large role in the history of Rock ‘n Roll.

The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is one of Cleveland’s best known and most visited attractions, but it’s not resting on its laurels. The new exhibits and additions to the Museum, as well as the carefully-curated permanent collection, make this an attraction worth (re)visiting. Long Live Rock!

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Why? Partners Flight Night!

On Monday night, Playhouse Square Partners and friends met up for a tour of wines around the United States. This marked our third annual Flight Night at Bin 216, located right in the heart of Playhouse Square.

We had five courses of delicious small bites, expertly paired with wines from around the country (not just California!) Our first course was a celery heart salad with medjool dates, arugula, candied walnuts, gorgonzola, and white balsamic vinaigrette.

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The salad was rich in texture and flavor and was paired with A to Z Pinot Gris from Oregon, a crisp white wine that I will definitely be picking up as a summer sipper.

The second course had everyone raving (and hoping for seconds): Parmesan and sweet corn risotto topped with a Parmesan crisp and chive oil, paired with an unoaked chardonnay from Laurello Vineyards in Ohio.

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This risotto was absolutely decadent and there’s nothing I love more than sweet corn in the summer! And while chardonnay is not my favorite wine, the pairing was nice and I love that a local wine was featured on our tour.

Next up was smoked chicken thighs with carrots mignonette, paired with Ravines Cabernet Franc from New York.

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The peppery flavors in the wine paired well with the simple, but pepper-forward flavor of the carrots.

Our fourth course was a grilled bavette steak with chimichurri, smashed fingerlings, and haricot verts, paired with Oberon Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa California.

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This was by far my favorite wine of the evening and the spicy, rich flavors of the steak dish only enhanced the wine.

Finally, we capped off our evening with rice pudding with sour cherry compote, paired with Maple and Vine dessert wine from Ohio.

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The dessert itself was not overly sweet and had nice texture, which made it a nice pair with the sweet, almost syrupy wine.

The food was delicious, I found some new wines to love, and, as usual, I always have fun with my fellow Partners! For elegant small bites and an expansive wine list, head to Bin 216 before your next theater outing.

***Disclosure: I am the co-chair of Playhouse Square Partners. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? John Carroll University Reunion Weekend!

In the midst of all the other busy-ness this weekend, it was also John Carroll University Reunion Weekend. And while it’s not my reunion year (although I did come to the realization that next year will be my 15th…eep!), there was still plenty of fun to be had up on campus for me.

Every year, the Friday night of Reunion Weekend is open to all Cleveland-area alumni, to come and socialize with friends from various classes. This year’s theme was all about Cleveland, celebrating this great city that is home to John Carroll University and so many of it’s alumni.

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From the decor, with mini Cleveland script signs about, to the beverages, with Great Lakes Brewing Co. beer and Cleveland Whiskey beverages flowing freely, Cleveland was front and center.

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Food stations throughout the big tent paid homage to Cleveland’s diverse and delicious food scene, with the Tremont Taco Bar, West Side Market Salad Bar, Little Italy Pasta Station, and East Side Corned Beef and Pierogi.

The desserts were from two of Cleveland sweetest businesses: ice cream made before your eyes from Piccadilly Creamery and mini donuts (with glitter!) from Brewnuts.

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You could also stock up on Cleveland-themed gear at the In the 216 pop-up shop (I bought a magnet and a skyline throw pillow.)

A night that combined so much John Carroll and Cleveland love left my heart feeling so full! Both places are “home” to me and it was so neat to see them celebrated together.

On Saturday morning, I headed back up to campus for an outdoor yoga session on the quad.

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It was a wonderful class, taught by Samantha of SozaFitness and Balance & Brews. Again, when two things I love combine, it’s bound to be a special experience!

While I was practicing, Jeffrey was at Camp Carroll, a kids camp during Reunion Weekend that keeps the little ones entertained while the grown-ups reunite. He played in the gym and splashed in the pool and further cemented my plan to have him wanting to enroll at John Carroll before he even hits kindergarten!

It was a lovely weekend of time up on my favorite campus. I can’t wait for the full reunion experience next year (although maybe we don’t need to talk about which number reunion it is!) And if you’re a Cleveland alumni, come up and celebrate with me on the Friday night of next year’s Reunion Weekend!

***Disclosure: I am the President of the John Carroll University Cleveland Alumni Chapter. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Jet Express Giveaway!

This weekend, Matthew, Jeffrey, my parents, and I made a little day getaway to Put-In-Bay aboard the Jet Express.

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The Lake Erie Islands make for the perfect summer staycation and, when you only have a day to explore, the Jet Express is the perfect way to get there.

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The Jet Express provides the quickest way to get to Put-In-Bay or Kelley’s Island from either Port Clinton or Sandusky, with tons of travel times, central drop-off locations, late night service, and guaranteed spots when you reserve online.

So, how do you make the most of one day on Put-In-Bay? Here’s my Top 5 List:

1.Plan ahead. Think about your interests and what you would like to do while on the island. The Jet Express offers packages to fit lots of different needs, from families to island hoppers. We had the Kayaks & Caves Adventure Deal as our package for the day, which helped structure our activities.

2. Secure a mode of transportation. This will ensure you can maximize the ground you cover. Our Kayaks & Caves package offered a free bike rental for two from Island Bike & Cart Rental.

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Since we had 5 people and a wagon to haul, we opted for a cart rental instead. This allowed us to cover maximum ground in minimum time.

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3. Head below ground. Both Perry’s Cave

and the Crystal Cave at Heineman’s Winery

offer one-of-a-kind experiences unique to Put-In-Bay and captivating for all ages. Tours of both caves were included in our package and were not something I would have experienced otherwise.

4. Nourish and hydrate appropriately for your adventures. From the lobster roll and Lake Erie perch and walleye at The Boardwalk Upper Deck (we had a $25 food voucher there as part of our package)

to the award-winning wines at Heineman’s Winery

to a fruity blender drink at Mojito Bay Tiki Bar, there’s plenty to tempt you in food and drink. Make sure you have time to enjoy a variety!

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5. Leave time for distractions. We went in with the Kayaks & Caves Adventure Deal guiding our day. But along the way, we stumbled into Kimberly’s Carousel

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and the Pyrate Fest

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and the beauty and history of Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial.

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As much as you need to plan to maximize a one-day trip, you need to also allow the island to work it’s charms on you and not be afraid to stop and enjoy them along the way!

So you can enjoy your own getaway to the Lake Erie Islands, I have two round-trip tickets on the Jet Express to give away! The tickets are good for any day in 2017, departing from Port Clinton. And to sweeten the deal, I’ll throw in a bike rental for two voucher from our package that we weren’t able to use.

Here’s how to enter (you can do one, two, three, four, or all five entries, just leave a separate comment here for each):

1.Leave a comment telling me what you’d most like to do with a day on Put-In-Bay.

2. Visit The Jet Express and Why CLE? on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you visited both pages.

3. Follow @jetexpress and @whycle on Instagram and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

4. Follow @JetExp and @WhyCLE on Twitter and leave a comment here letting me know you’re following both.

5. Tweet the following phrase and leave a comment here letting me know you tweeted:

I want to win @JetExp tickets for an island getaway from @WhyCLE: https://whycle.com/2017/06/27/why-jet-express-giveaway #giveaway 

 You can tweet once per day for additional entries, just leave a separate comment here each time you tweet.

The giveaway will close on Sunday, July 2 at 11:59pm and the winner will be notified the following day. Good luck!

***Disclosure: I was invited by the Jet Express to spend a day on Put-In-Bay with the Kayaks & Caves Adventure Deal and to share my experience. I received a complimentary Kayaks & Caves Adventure Deal, as well as a swag bag and 2 complimentary Jet Express round-trip tickets to give away. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Cleveland Museum of Art Solstice!

The Cleveland Museum of Art is world-renowned, which not only gives us access to an incredible permanent collection of art, but also means the Museum can command incredible exhibitions and amazing performers from around the world.

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Nowhere is this more evident than at Solstice, the must-attend party of a Cleveland summer. There are amazing international musicians both in the Atrium and outside, where a massive dance party takes place with the gorgeous Museum facade as the backdrop.

You can also take in the permanent collection and special exhibitions, with special gallery tours too.

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Matthew and I loved perusing the galleries and had a lot of fun in the new ARTLENS Gallery, which is a fun and interactive way to enjoy and explore art.

You can also purchase small bites from Provenance, as well as sippers from a full-service bar (white wine only though, because summer.) And the people-watching at Solstice is unparalleled!

Solstice is top to bottom a visually stunning event, not just because of the art that surrounds you, but also because of the incredible light shows, gigantic robots made from balloons (seriously), gorgeous flowers, and the chance to celebrate this most glorious season under the stars at one of Cleveland’s premier venues.

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Welcome, summer! You are my favorite time in Cleveland and Solstice is one the best ways to fete the season!

***Disclosure: I was invited by the Cleveland Museum of Art to attend Solstice with two complimentary tickets. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Eton Explorers!

I’m always on the hunt for fun new experiences with Jeffrey, which led us to Eton Explorers, a fun, carnival-like event put on by Northeast Ohio Parent and held once a month in the summer at Eton Chagrin Boulevard.

The theme for this month’s Eton Explorers was Superheroes and Princesses, so capes and frilly dresses were everywhere!

There was lots of fun to experience, from a balloon tent manned by The Twister Girl

…to police cars and fire trucks from the City of Woodmere…

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…frozen yogurt treats from Menchie’s

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…to games and crafts from the Cuyahoga County Public LibraryThe Ratner School, the Cleveland Gladiators and Cleveland Monsters, and more.

It was a true community event, with lots of participation from various family-friendly businesses. And while it was a bit crowded, the lines moved quickly and we were easily able to participate in all the activities.

The next Eton Explorers are scheduled for July 18 (Splash Pad) and August 15 (Scavenger Hunt.) The events are free and open to the public. And if you live on the West side, you can check out Crocker Park Kids, scheduled for July 11, August 8, and September 12.

I’m proud to be blogging for Northeast Ohio Parent (check out my posts here), but I’m also happy to share this event because it was honestly a great time with a fun theme! We’re excited for the next two Eton Explorers!

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Why? Cleveland Metroparks Zoo Membership!

One of our favorite places to go, both with Jeffrey and as a couple, is the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.  From amazing special events to incredible exhibits that let you get up close and personal with the animals to a commitment to wildlife conservation, there’s so much to love at the Zoo!

 

We’ve found that the best way to enjoy the Zoo is with a membership. Because your membership gets you unlimited free admission to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and The RainForest, you don’t feel the pressure to see everything in one day, which is definitely a benefit when you combine a 3-year-old with a Zoo as big as ours!

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We also save on carousel rides, which is always a must-ride for any Zoo trip!

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We’ve also used our membership to save money at reciprocal zoos around the country from as close to Akron to as far away as Corpus Christi.

You can choose the membership level that’s right for you, from Individual Plus to Family Select, with varying levels of guests, perks, and more.

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A Zoo membership pays for itself in about two visits, which is easy for anyone to accomplish. So, what does membership get you?

  • Free unlimited admission to Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and The RainForest for one year – go right to the gate, no waiting in line
  • Discounted daytime admission to more than 150 zoos nationwide
  • Subscription to award-winning Z Magazine
  • Discounts on camps and educational programs
  • Exclusive invitations to special events
  • 10% discount on purchases at Zoo gift shops
  • Discounts on carousel rides and Total Experience packages
  • Discounts on Twilight at the Zoo (in May only)

Membership contributions support the Zoo and its efforts to promote wildlife conservation and education both within your Zoo and around the world.

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As you can see, a Zoo Membership features a lot of benefits and gives you access to one of Cleveland’s finest and most fun attractions! And I have a discount code that lets you save 15% on a membership!

When you purchase a membership online, enter code WHYCLE to save 15% on the Individual Plus, Family, Family Plus, or Family Select membership levels. The discount code expires on August 31, 2017.

I hope to see you at the Zoo soon for a wild time for all ages!

***Disclosure: I was asked by the Cleveland Zoological Society to help promote zoo membership. In exchange, I received a complimentary membership renewal for myself, as well as the discount code for readers. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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Why? Weekends!

Aside from backyard vinyasa, we had lots of other weekend plans! On Friday, Matthew’s family came over for an early Father’s Day BBQ. The kids played in the pool and yard like crazy, the grown-ups had a chance to catch up, and everyone enjoyed lots of summery treats, like watermelon and a homemade sundae bar.

Saturday morning, we took Jeffrey to Legacy Village for Meet the Machines. This event packed Legacy Village with all kinds of vehicles from police cars to fire trucks to construction equipment to the Euclid Beach Rocket Ship Car.

You could even get in some of the vehicles to drive and explore!

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I really appreciated how spread out the vehicles and activities were, giving everyone plenty of space to see and enjoy everything. Plus, there was a huge variety of vehicles, so every kid could find something cool to check out.

Beyond just the vehicles, there was live entertainment, giveaways from local companies, and crafts. Jeffrey loved decorating his CAT construction hard hat!

Legacy Village’s Meet the Machines was really well put together, which made it just as much fun for the adults as for the kids!

On Sunday, Matthew selected an activity to do with Jeffrey for Father’s Day and he chose to go to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The Zoo had free admission for dads on Father’s Day and we saw a lot of families taking advantage of this fun way to spend time together.

The animals were definitely putting on a show on Sunday, too. We got very up close and personal with the giraffe…

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…lion…

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…and tiger.

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It was a really great morning with lots of good family memories made! Stay tuned this week for more information on Zoo membership and all the great reasons to check out our Cleveland Metroparks Zoo!

After that, we headed to my parents house to stuff ourselves with guacamole and margaritas, as it should be on Father’s Day!

It was a fun, family-centered weekend! How was yours?

***Disclosure: I have an ongoing relationship with Legacy Village to promote their events. In exchange, I will receive compensation in the form of Legacy Village gift cards. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***

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