#PartnersCLE Free Tailgate Party at PlayhouseSquare

Blogkeeping: Without further ado, we have a Taste of the Browns giveaway winner!

TOB Winner

After checking all of the entries and removing two pingbacks plus several duplicate entries, the winner as selected by Random.org is Cheryl Scheckel. Congratulations! 

If you didn’t win, I have another way you can celebrate the return of football to Cleveland … and this party is free for everyone!

PlayhouseSquare Partners' Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

PlayhouseSquare Partners’ Season KickOff Party: Enjoy a tailgate followed by outdoor showing of Draft Day

Join PlayhouseSquare Partners, the theatre district’s young professionals organization, for a Season KickOff Party and Movie this Friday night.

At dusk on September 12, PlayhouseSquare will be showing Draft Day out on the U.S. Bank Plaza. The movie’s free and part of PlayhouseSquare’s Summer Movie Series presented by Elk & Elk.

Our pre-movie kickoff will take place 5:30-8:30pm in the Idea Center’s Gund studio space on Euclid Ave. The tailgate-themed party includes:

  • A Chipotle Buffet
  • Cash Bar (First drink on us!)
  • Ice Cream Bars
  • DJ Playing Music
  • and Cornhole and Other Tailgate Games

PlayhouseSquare Partners will also be there with tables and information for each of our committees and upcoming activities.

Best of all, everyone who attends the party will be the first to find out what this year’s Jump Back Ball theme is. (I’m on the board and I won’t even find out til then!)

It’s free to attend the Partners KickOff Party, and if you decide to join Partners at this event, you’ll also receive 20% off a new Partners membership (excluding Balcony’s Best $50 membership).

Just RSVP for the party by emailing sarah@playhousesquare.org. See you Friday!

Disclaimer: I’m a co-chair of PlayhouseSquare Partners’ board and involved in the hosting of the movie’s Tailgate Party.

My #LakeErieLove Story: Cedar Point, A Century-Old Love Affair

Reminder: TODAY is the last day to enter my Taste of the Browns giveaway. You have until 11:59pm tonight (Sunday, 9/7). I’ll announce the winner on Monday.

Cedar Point's Gatekeeper

Cedar Point’s Gatekeeper threads the needle

As you walk up to Cedar Point’s front gate – tickets in hand, anticipation running high – the first thing you notice is the screaming.

Screams of excitement, of course, from their roller coaster “ride warriors.”

Framing the park’s front gate is Cedar Point’s most recent coaster, the aptly named Gatekeeper. The winged coaster takes riders on a two-minute-and-twenty-second jaunt through sharp turns, rolls, and dips up and around the park’s entrance. The highlight of which is when the track – and you – thread the keyholes in the gate’s dual towers.

Gatekeeper is only one of the 17 coasters at the park. (Soon to be 16…your last chance to ride the Mantis is October 19).

With all of these thrills, Cedar Point has definitely earned the moniker of “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World” and its 16 consecutive Golden Ticket Awards for Best Amusement Park in the World.

What about if you don’t like roller coasters, though? On this summer’s #LakeErieLove blogger tour, we met Cedar Point’s Bryan Edwards who showed us how much more there is to Cedar Point.

A non-coaster rider himself, Edwards told us about the park’s focus on providing an experience that everyone can enjoy. At Cedar Point, there’s something for young families, history buffs, food fanatics, beachgoers, and everyone in between.

I’m a huge coaster fan; it’s one of the reasons Scott and I buy a Platinum Season Pass every year. However, when our group was let out into the park to do what we wanted, I decided that this was one CP visit where I wouldn’t run straight to Millennium Force.

Instead, I joined Midwest Guest on a hunt for some of the Park’s historic highlights.

Our first stop was Cedar Point’s Coliseum. As you walk down the Midway, it’s hard to miss this huge structure.

The Cedar Point Coliseum from the side

The Cedar Point Coliseum from the side

Although I’ve explored every inch of Coliseum’s downstairs arcade on previous visits, I hadn’t seen the upstairs. Dominique and I took a peek at Cedar Point’s beautiful ballroom. Opened in 1906, the Ballroom has hosted music greats such as Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and Duke Ellington, At one time, it even housed a roller skating rink.

Inside the Cedar Point ballroom

Inside the Cedar Point ballroom

It wasn’t difficult to imagine Ellington playing to a packed house as we walked around the space. The art deco accents, beautiful wooden floor, vintage chairs and tables, and massive stage are all still there.

The next time I’m playing a game of pinball, it’ll be cool to know what’s right above my head.

Cedar Point arcade and pinball machines, first floor of the coliseum

Cedar Point arcade and pinball machines, first floor of the coliseum

After this, we hit the beach. Cedar Point’s boardwalk and beach are beautiful, and worth taking a break from the coasters to explore.

It’s also how Cedar Point got its start. In 1867, an editorial in the local newspaper called on “some enterprising person” to utilize the Cedar Point Peninsula’s beach. That person ended up being Louis Zistel, who opened up a beer garden, bathhouse and dance floor, ferrying guests across Sandusky Bay on his steamboat, Young Reindeer. It wouldn’t be another 20+ years until Cedar Point’s first roller coaster, the Switchback Railway, was introduced.

This summer's Cedar Point Beach Blasts featured food, drink, games, live music, and fireworks

This summer’s Cedar Point Beach Blasts featured food, drink, games, live music, and fireworks

In 1913, the beach would play a significant part in another moment of history – the perfecting of football’s forward pass by Notre Dame and college football legend Knute Rockne. Knute and his teammate Gus Dorais both worked as lifeguards that summer at Cedar Point. During their freetime, they made use of the long stretch of beach, practicing throwing and running the ball.

A historic marker, as well as plaques telling the story, can be found down by Hotel Breakers.

Historic markers found near Hotel Breakers on the Cedar Point beach

Historic markers found near Hotel Breakers on the Cedar Point beach

That’s not all you’ll find at Hotel Breakers, either. The hotel, which originally opened in 1905, offers a glimpse into its past, with a beautiful Rotunda and original Tiffany glass.

If you were to stop by Hotel Breakers right now, though, you’ll notice that parts of it are closed. Just in time for its 110th birthday, the hotel is undergoing a full update to its hotel rooms, lobby, and more.

The renovations are to be completed by next summer. You can read about all of them here.

Inside Cedar Point's Hotel Breakers

Inside Cedar Point’s Hotel Breakers

Of course, you don’t have to just look at the history. You can experience it for yourself on a few of the park’s rides.

From Blue Streak (the park’s oldest coaster) to the Cadillac Cars, Scrambler, and the Cedar Point & Lake Erie Railroad, many of the park’s current rides have been bringing enjoyment to Cedar Point guests for more than half a century.

My personal favorites, though, are Cedar Point’s trifecta of carousels – the Midway Carousel, Kiddy Kingdom Carousel and Cedar Downs.

Cedar Point's Midway Carousel

Cedar Point’s Midway Carousel

Built in 1912, the Midway Carousel is one of the few Daniel Muller carousels still in existence. It’s also the park’s oldest operating ride.

The Kiddy Kingdom Carousel features 52 stunning animals (16 standing and 36 jumping) and two chariots. I love the variety in this carousel. It was built in 1925 by the William H. Dentzel firm in Philadelphia.  

Cedar Downs Racing Derby, a “must-rides” anytime I visit Cedar Point, is one of only two racing derby rides in the U.S. Originally built in 1920 for Cleveland’s Euclid Beach, Cedar Downs ran there for 47 years under the name the Great American Racing Derby. The ride is still housed in its original structure featuring 64 horses. Each row of four moves back and forth as the carousel’s turntable rotates at speeds up to 15 mph. If nothing else, the music that plays while you’re racing will put a smile on your face.

Cedar Downs Racing Derby (or, as our friend Dave called this, "The last thing you see before you die")

Cedar Downs Racing Derby (or, as our friend Dave called this, “The last thing you see before you die”)

You can get an even better look at Cedar Point’s history by stopping by the Town Hall Museum located near the Mine Ride. It features old maps and pictures and digs into a lot of the park’s past. Cleveland Scene also put together this neat slideshow of vintage Cedar Point photos.

Across the entire park, Cedar Point continues to balance its coasters with attractions for families and non-coaster-enthusiasts. For instance, they introduced two new family thrill rides this season with Pipe Scream and the Lake Erie Eagles.

I was particularly happy about the addition of Lake Erie Eagles because an identical ride at Virginia’s Kings Dominion was my favorite as a kid. I’m not going to lie…it’s still one of my favorite rides to go on.

Cedar Point's Lake Erie Eagles in action

Cedar Point’s Lake Erie Eagles in action

This post just grazes the surface of what Cedar Point offers beyond roller coasters. I didn’t even mention the farm or their new wine and beer bar in Frontiertown! Every visit between now and November 1, gets you access not just to the park’s usual attractions, but also the fun of HalloWeekends.

Regardless of whether you define “Ride Warrior” by the thrill of Maverick or a leisurely ride on the Cedar Point railroad, this Ohio amusement park offers a lot to love for every guest.

Catch up on the rest of my #LakeErieLove Story:

And keep an eye out for the final chapter in my Lake Erie Love Story: Getting back to nature.

Disclosure: I was invited on a 3-night/4 day blogger tour of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and other related posts are 100% my own.

Celebrate IPM’s 40th Anniversary with an Evening with Rick Steves and the Inaugural Cleveland General Assembly Week

Giveaway Reminder: Don’t forget to enter to win 2 tickets to Taste of the Browns. The giveaway ends Sunday, September 7. Tweet daily for extra entries!

Colombian Children in the Niños Trabajadores program, one of IPM's project partners

Colombian Children in the Niños Trabajadores program, one of IPM’s project partners

Children suffering from Cerebral Palsy in Kenya are given an opportunity to learn computer skills and tailoring.

Impoverished and visually impaired women in Palestine are able to learn Braille, Arabic, and English and earn a high school diploma.

Teenagers in Nicaragua, forced to work during the day to support their families, have the chance to complete their studies at night.

These are just three of the global projects that International Partners in Mission has supported over the last 40 years.

ipm

For four decades, IPM has reached the far corners of the world from its home in Cleveland Heights. Last year alone, the organization helped 60,000 people by providing financial support, tech assistance, and training opportunities in 20 countries.

One way they do this is through Immersion Experience travel programs. The Immersion Experience goes beyond the traditional service project by focusing on a person-to-person exchange. As IPM explains on its site:

By meeting and living with individuals from across our global community, participants provide the greatest service there is – being present to listen and learn from their hosts. Participants’ roles are to share their compassion and to share themselves. By exposing the past and current socio-political conditions from a variety of perspectives, IPM Immersion Experiences allow participants to learn from our local friends what faith means to them, how their programs develop and improve their community, and about the local culture while taking in the sights, sounds, and foods of the country.

To mark its 40th anniversary, IPM is bringing their project partners and national and international experts to Cleveland for a week’s worth of panels, luncheons and dinner events for the public to enjoy.

IPM’s inaugural General Assembly week will take place October 13-17 and feature talks by individuals such as Dorothy Nyong’o, a consultant at the Africa Cancer Foundation and Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o's mother, and Sister Anthonia Ugheighele, whose Speranza II program provides a safe haven for African women trafficked from Nigeria to Italy.

At the same time, General Assembly week will also be a time of celebration with two special events: An Evening with Rick Steves and Namaste.

An evening with Rick Steves will take place October 17

An evening with Rick Steves will take place October 17

The party starts with IPM’s 12th annual gala and fundraiser Namaste! One Night for One World on October 16. The evening will showcase a world-tour of music and dance, as well as food and drink and fair-trade handcrafts from the regions touched by IPM’s programs.

The following evening, join IPM and The City Club’s Dan Moultrop for a private reception and talk with Rick Steves, host of the popular public television series “Rick Steves’ Europe” and best-selling author of over 50 European travel books.

Steves is a perfect fit for IPM’s General Assembly, often encouraging Americans to travel independently and become “temporary locals.” He’ll present his new book and reflect on how a life of travel has broadened his own perspectives and can be a significant force for peace and understanding in the world.

Steves’ talk will start at 6:30 at The Breen Center for the Performing Arts. General admission tickets cost $30 and can be purchased here (student and VIP tickets are also available).

If you’re interested in learning more about Namaste and IPM’s other General Assemby events, visit IPM’s Facebook page or contact Raluca Besliu at rbesliu@ipmconnect.org and 216-932-4082.

Taste of the Browns Giveaway: Tackle Hunger with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Win 2 tickets to

Win 2 tickets to the Sept. 15 event

Every four years, Feeding America, the nationwide network of 200 food banks, conducts its Hunger in America study.

It’s the largest survey of its kind, focusing on why hunger happens and its effects on local communities.

The most recent Hunger in America was released just last week, and showed that right here in Northeast Ohio, more than 574,000 people each year turn to the Greater Cleveland Food Bank and other hunger programs.

If you’ve been thinking about getting involved with the Food Bank, now is the time.

September is Hunger Action Month, a nationwide campaign to raise significant funds and enlist volunteers in the fight against hunger.

And the Greater Cleveland Food Bank has made it easy and fun for you to contribute with two fantastic events.

First up is the Hunger Action Month Happy Hour on Monday, September 8th. From 5:30-7:30pm, drink and eat up at TownHall in Ohio City. A $20 ticket gets you unlimited selected drafts between 5:30 and 7:30 and flatbreads between 6 and 7. All proceeds benefit the Cleveland Food Bank, and you can find out more and buy tickets at the link.

It’s an excellent warm-up to the Food Bank’s main event the following week. That’s right, it’s time again for Taste of the Browns!

It’s the 16th year that the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, the city’s culinary scene, and the Cleveland Browns have teamed up to tackle hunger in Northeast Ohio.

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

On Monday, September 15, more than 25 of the area’s finest restaurants and chefs will take over the City View Club Lounge at FirstEnergy Stadium. Some of the restaurants in attendance include:

  • Rocco Whalen’s Fahrenheit and Rosie & Rocco’s
  • Zack Bruell’s Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, L’Albatros Brasserie, Parallax, Table 45
  • Eric Williams’ Momocho and El Carnicero
  • Sam McNulty’s The Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Speakeasy, Nano Brew and Bier Market
  • And my new favorite downtown dining destination Urban Farmer
Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns by Poise in Parma

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns by Poise in Parma

Cleveland Browns fans also have the opportunity to meet and mingle with Browns alumni and current players and bid for items like Joe Haden’s “favorite things” gift basket; footballs and jerseys autographed by Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel and Barkevious Mingo; and a signed copy of the Draft Day movie script.

New to this year’s Taste of the Browns is a wine and craft beer pull. For $10, attendees can purchase a bottle cap for a six-pack of craft beer, while $20 gets you a bottle of wine.

Need more convincing? Check out Poise in Parma’s guest recap of last year’s Taste of the Browns.

General admission tickets are available for $175, $75 of which is tax-deductible and can be purchased here. Proceeds from last year’s event raised more than $175,000 for the Food Bank, enabling them to distribute 700,000+ meals to agencies in six local counties.

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

Photo from 2013 Taste of the Browns, courtesy of Greater Cleveland Food Bank

You can also win 2 general admission tickets to Taste of the Browns in my giveaway.
How to enter: Do one, some or all five of the entries; a separate comment’s needed for each.

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment on this post telling me which Taste of the Browns restaurant you haven’t been to before that you’d like to try.

2) Follow @CleveFoodbank and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave one comment on this post telling me you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of Clue Into Cleveland and the Cleveland Foodbank on Facebook, leave one comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to tackle hunger at @CleveFoodbank’s #TasteoftheBrowns. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway and you can too: http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2zV

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

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Sunday, September 7 at 11:59PM to enter. On Monday, September 8, I will select a winner using Random.org and will announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Taste of the Browns with a guest in exchange for hosting a giveaway. My choice to post about this event and opinions are 100% my own.

A Birthday of High Flying, Good Eats & The Great Outdoors

First off, whether it was by Facebook, Twitter, email, text, phone call, or in person — thank you for all of the birthday wishes this weekend.

The festivities started early on Friday night with Date Night at the ZOOvies. This was the second year in a row we celebrated my birthday with an evening of food, beer, and an 80s classic under the stars.

Pre-movie dinner at Date Night at the ZOOvies

Pre-movie dinner at Date Night at the ZOOvies

The Cleveland Zoological Society always does a great job with ZOOvies – especially, the pre-movie food. This year, the eggrolls and BBQ sandwiches were the standouts.

However, it’s the movie snacks that are my favorite part. Besides popcorn, beer, wine, and soda, ZOOvies features a pretzel bar with multiple dips and a candy bar stacked with bowls of sweets from BA Sweeties.

The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo showed The Great Outdoors, which I had never seen before but Scott kept quoting for the last month.  It was good to finally put a film to the quotes — a film that lived up to the high expectations Scott had set for me.

Scott rests his feet after setting up our chairs at Date Night at the ZOOvies

Scott rests his feet after setting up our chairs at Date Night at the ZOOvies

I loved The Great Outdoors for capturing everything I enjoy about 80s flicks — the family-vacation-gone-wrong-but-it-doesn’t-matter-because-they-still-have-fun; the bawdy humor; Dan Akroyd and John Candy playing off of each other; the sub-titled animal scenes.

I also realized how much I missed hearing John Candy’s voice. There was always a wink and warmth to it.

After eating a plate full of sour gummy bears, I rode a sugar high all the way home from the Zoo, arriving just in time to crash face first into bed.

If you want to learn how you can enjoy the really great outdoors with the Zoo, the Zoological Society’s next featured event is a preview of their upcoming wildlife trips and takes place September 23.

Some of my favorite airplanes from RC Warbirds Over Port Clinton

Some of my favorite airplanes from RC Warbirds Over Port Clinton

Birthday proper was spent fulfilling a lifelong wish. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with remote-controlled everything. I played with remote-control cars and boats; however, the one thing I never touched was a remote-control airplane. (Mostly, because I’m 100% sure I would have immediately crashed and broken it.)

And I think that made my obsession with them even stronger.  I remember going to a park with my dad and marveling at the beautiful scaled warbirds doing tricks across the sky. Unfortunately, my local hobby shop didn’t offer a lot of flying classes for kids, so I kept myself content with my RC trucks.

When Scott and I found out the Liberty Aviation Museum was hosting RC Warbirds Over Port Clinton on my birthday, we immediately knew it would be the perfect birthday outing.

Classic biplanes, jets, helicopters, aerobatic – RC Warbirds Over Port Clinton featured all kinds of flying machines this past weekend.  Each beautifully constructed, most of which you wouldn’t have known were a model when looking up at the sky.  Here’s a YouTube video from the event:

Best of all, Warbirds over Port Clinton had local RC shops at the show, selling a HUGE range of planes and equipment, including a starter kit whose price had my name all over it. Now if I crash and burn, I won’t feel so bad. And if I don’t crash and burn? I may have a new hobby to enjoy.

After a short nap (at 32, I can’t rock a full day of excitement anymore without a little sleep), we were off to dinner at Spice in Gordon Square.

Spice Kitchen and Bar's Honey Glazed Sirloin

Spice Kitchen and Bar’s Honey Glazed Sirloin

After this year’s birthday dinner, I can’t say enough nice things about Spice Kitchen and Bar. We’ve always enjoyed the restaurant the few times we visited in the past, but our experience on Saturday night was by far the best.

Due to a last minute change in plans, we found ourselves calling Spice at 7pm Saturday to see if they could fit a group of six for 7:45.

A long shot, for sure, but they were incredibly gracious about it and we even lucked out and got my favorite table in the entire restaurant — a gorgeous long wooden table, decked out with wooden tree trunks.

My Honey Lavender Collins went very well with our table setting at Spice Kitchen and Bar

My Honey Lavender Collins went well with our table

As always, the service and food were fantastic. To start, Scott ordered the dumplings, while I ordered the mushroom beignets. I was talking with a friend on Monday about how we would go to Spice just for those beignets and the honey goat cheese creme fraiche they’re served with. If you kept putting orders of these in front of me, I would just keep eating them:

I could eat five orders of Spice's Mushroom Beignets

Fortunately, I stopped myself and saved room for our entrees. Scott’s sirloin featured a hint of honey glaze, wonderfully balanced by the meat’s peppery kick. I ordered the evening’s special – rabbit pappardelle. The rabbit and noodles were incredibly tender. If they offer you a rabbit special when you go, I highly recommend it.

I topped this magnificent dinner with a Honey Lavender Collins and the fantastic company of Jen, Alicia, their husbands and the Morrises in spirit.

All in all, a lovely way to say hello to 32. I’m looking forward to the year ahead.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Date Night at the ZOOvies with a guest in exchange for previewing the event. Opinions are 100% my own.

The ALS #IceBucketChallenge: To quote Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s time “to give a sh*t.”

There's $31 million in this bucket

There’s more than $31 million in this bucket

“Building awareness.” The term can mean many things.

When it comes to the ALS #IceBucketChallenge, it can mean reaching people for the first time who don’t know what ALS or Lou Gehrig’s Disease is. Or educating everyone on just how devastating ALS is to the body. Or revealing that ALS research (and many other nonprofits) has been struggling with funding.

I will admit that at the beginning of the Ice Bucket Challenge, I was on the fence about people dousing themselves with ice water for a cause. Over the last couple of years, I’ve become a little jaded about social media stunts.

However, it was articles like What An ALS Family REALLY Thinks About the Ice Bucket Challenge and Why I Won’t Be Ashamed of My #icebucketchallenge that changed my mind. You also can’t argue with the fact that the challenge has raised over $15 million $31.5 million for the ALS Association and additional millions for other ALS organizations. What could have been a short-lived stunt did much more than build awareness. It drove action.

Whether it’s $5, $10, $25 or $100…
Regardless of whether or not you film yourself dumping ice water on your head…
It’s time to donate to ALS research and treatments.

Although my bucket decided to sit this one out, I put my wallet where my mind and mouth are. I encourage you to do the same if you already haven’t. Donate to ALS; or – if you would prefer – split your next donation between ALS and the charity of your choice.

And if you’re looking for a place to make your ALS donation, here’s one:

Jennifer Jackson is a friend of mine from PlayhouseSquare Partners (and an excellent board vice-chair!). A little over 8 years ago, her father Hank lost his life to ALS.

Her family now participates in the Cleveland Walk to Defeat ALS to give thanks to the ALS Association for supporting them through his battle. The organization provided respite care and home health aids that made a tremendous difference in his quality of life.

The 2014 Walk to Defeat ALS takes place on September 21. You can join me in helping Jen and her family surpass their goal by donating here.

If you still have your doubts about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, go and read those three articles that I linked to earlier and then read this exchange from Guardians of the Galaxy. I watched this movie for the third time last night, and the more often I see it, the more I realize it’s the perfect movie for everything else going on right now. 

Peter Quill: Usually life takes more than it gives, but not today. Today it’s given us something. It has given us a chance.

Drax: To do what?

Peter: To give a shit.

P.S. – Thank you, Poise in Parma, for tagging me in the Ice Bucket Challenge. I had decided to donate but it was your tag that reminded me to take the 30 seconds to follow through. (Yet another reason this campaign is good — it fights forgetfulness!)

Win 2 Tickets to the Sold-Out Date Night at the ZOOvies

Update: After tallying up all of the entries, removing two non-entry comments, and plugging the total into Random.org, congratulations to entry #9 – Mindy R!

Zoovies winner

Please reply to my email by the end of Monday to confirm you can attend ZOOvies.

Date Night at the ZOOvies may be sold out, but I have 2 tickets you can win

Date Night at the ZOOvies may be sold out, but I have 2 tickets you can win

When I told Scott that we’d be seeing The Great Outdoors at this year’s Date Night at the ZOOvies, he freaked out and started spouting off a bunch of quotes.

I’ve never seen the movie, but when Scott’s face lit up at the mere mention of the movie and he told me it starred one of my favorite comic actors John Candy, I realized I had something to look forward to.

Between the John Hughes script about a camping trip gone comically awry and hijinks from Dan Akroyd and Candy, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo has yet again put together the perfect late-summer outing (and birthday-eve for me!).

Zoovies3

The pretzel and candy bars are a great touch to Date Night at the ZOOvies

On Friday, August 22, pack up your picnic blanket and lawn chairs and head to the Zoo’s Savanna Theater for an evening of The Great Outdoors … in the great outdoors!

The movie starts at 8:30pm, with hot pretzels, popcorn, a candy bar, beer, wine, and soda served during the movie, but if you get there early, you can also enjoy light apps and drinks starting at 7pm. The African Savanna and Australian Adventure will be open to tour, as well.

You can read my recap of last year’s ZOOvies for more info, but if you’ve been to Twilight at the Zoo or previous ZOOvies, you know the Cleveland Zoological Society throws a wicked party. 

Just a few of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's party animals

Just a few of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo’s party animals

I’m still recuperating from the fun we had at last Friday’s Twilight. After last year’s rainstorm, this was my first time actually experiencing all of Twilight at the Zoo. 

The food line in the VIP party was definitely worth the wait – delicious oysters, ceviche, filet, and short rib sliders from Mitchell’s Fish Market, Fleming’s, AMP 150, and Carrabbas’s. While Scott tried his first sip of moonshine, we listened to The Madison Crawl and relaxed under the trees.

After meeting up with Jen and Matthew, we made our way down the hill to the Zoo’s main entrance with the goal of seeing as many bands as possible.

Bon Jovi

Even a short rain shower couldn’t stop Scott

Scott showed his proud Jersey boy roots by rocking out to Bon Jovi tribute band Wanted. We filled up on delicious Reuben Bites as Shady Drive laid down some classic rock. And we cooled down with Joe Bell and the Swing Lizards around Monkey Island.

My favorite band, though, was Craic. Every time we stopped by their stage, the crowd was having a blast, and I will never turn down an opportunity to dance to Celtic rock.

I can’t wait for August 22 for more summer fun at the Zoo. Although Date Night at the ZOOvies is sold out, I have 2 tickets to give away for you and a friend.  You won’t see Groot, but Scott told me to prepare for more talking raccoons.  I hope you can join me!

There are 5 Easy Ways to Enter the Giveaway
**You must leave a separate comment on this post for each entry**

1) Leave a comment with your favorite thing to see or do at the Zoo.

2) Follow @CleveZooSociety and @ADHicken on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you did both.

3) If you’re a fan of the Cleveland Zoological Society and Clue Into Cleveland on Facebook, leave a comment on this blog post letting me know. If you’re not yet a fan, you can become one here and here.

4) Tweet the following and leave one comment letting me know you tweeted:

I want to see The Great Outdoors in the great outdoors. Enter @ADHicken’s giveaway for @CleveZooSociety #ZOOvies tix http://wp.me/p2Ukr0-2wD

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

5) Subscribe to Clue Into Cleveland via a feed tracker like Bloglovin’ or Feedly and leave one comment letting me know you did. This can also include signing up to receive email notifications in the top-right “Subscribe” section of this page.

You have until Friday, July 15 at 11:59PM to enter. On Saturday, July 16, Random.org will select a winner and I’ll announce the winner’s name on my blog.  Remember to leave a separate comment for each entry – good luck!

Disclosure: I was invited to attend Twilight at the Zoo and Date Night at the ZOOvies with a guest in exchange for blogging about the events. My choice to blog about it is based on how much Scott and I have enjoyed this event in years past.

My #LakeErieLove Story: A Merry Visit to Sandusky, Ohio

This is part 2 in my #LakeErieLove series. Catch up on part 1 here.

Sandusky, Ohio

Sandusky, Ohio

In my mind, Sandusky, Ohio has always been synonymous with Cedar Point.

That’s not to say I didn’t know there’s more to Sandusky than the “World’s Best Amusement Park” (a title I fully agree with).  When I’m waiting in line for Millennium Force or taking the Cedar Point train through the park, I would catch a glimpse of downtown Sandusky across the water.

However, until a recent trip to downtown Sandusky, my relationship with the city has always been from afar — looks of longing and curiosity.

It may be difficult to tear yourself from the rollercoasters; however, my advice for your next trip to Cedar Point is to make some time for Sandusky. You’ll find there’s much more to love about the city.

Sandusky 3

When I arrived in Sandusky on this last trip, I was a hot mess. Only a few hours earlier, I had rushed out of the house from work. And, even after checking into my hotel, I could feel the stress radiating from my shoulders.

However, as we strolled down the tree and flower-lined streets of downtown Sandusky, that tension evaporated.

Scenic parks and stunning historic architecture like the Sandusky Library and Follett House will do that to you.

Sandusky 1

Although it felt like I had been transported to a sleepy seaport town, I discovered that Sandusky is anything but as we explored its restaurants, bars, and attractions.

Much like Cleveland, Sandusky is undergoing a revitalization. Formerly empty storefronts are now being filled and the downtown is flourishing with many options for a nice night out.

Take ZINC brasserie, for example. Located along the waterfront, the building that houses ZINC was beautifully restored by husband-and-wife team Cesare and Andrea Avallone. Filled with warm touches of brick, wood, and pressed tin ceilings, the French-inspired restaurant would rival many in Cleveland.

Hearth Tavern at ZINC

ZINC’s menu offered so many delicious options that I struggled with what to get. Lobster Bisque En Croute (which got rave reviews from my tablemates), Duck Wellington, Steak Tartar, Escargot, and Lump Crab Stuffed Salmon are only a few of the choices. 

After a long debate between my eyes and my appetite, I settled on an order of ZINC’s House Pickles snack, a nice selection of sweet, spicy, and sour pickled vegetables, and their Farmstead wood-fired pizza.  Loaded with pork belly. a very juicy egg, and balanced with arugula and crisped crust, it was as good as Bar Cento’s breakfast pizza (a favorite of mine).

pIZZA

Adjoined to ZINC is Hearth Tavern, which offers a number of ZINC’s starters, pizza options, and a Pulled Pork Mac and Cheese that has my name all over it.

In addition to ZINC, the Avallone Restaurant Group has also opened CRUSH winebar and Dockside Cafe in Sandusky.

Another restaurateur helping to transform downtown Sandusky is Kha Bui, who followed the opening of Perkins Township’s Mekong a couple years ago with Small City Taphouse this summer.

During our walk around Sandusky, we made an impromptu stop at Small City for a quick drink and small bite to eat. Their menu features 45 beers on tap, hundreds of bottles to choose from, and a selection of sushi and Asian dishes. I loved the spring roll I sampled and the dichotomy between the olde-town exterior and modern interior design. It’s definitely worth a return visit to explore further.

Sandusky 2

Wherever you decide to eat, work it off with a stroll down to the Volstead Bar on E Water Street. As is fitting for a speakeasy, Volstead looks very unsuspecting from outside. However, the Green Door building has a colorful history having formerly hosted the Dorn Winery and a brothel under its roof.

Between its storied past and the curtains that cover the windows, it feels like you’re being let in on a really juicy secret when you enter the Volstead.

Like Small City, the decor strikes a perfect balance – modern with a few nostalgic touches that hearken to the Prohibition era. I got a big kick out of the old file folders – something you’d see in a Prohibition agent’s office – that hold their impressive cocktail menu.

The space is very intimate, perfect for an after-drink libation; however, it doesn’t get cramped because the owners have incorporated an inventive way to signal how much availability they have.

On the window facing the street, a row of lights signals whether Volstead is open and how many seats (be that 5+, 4, 3, 2, or 1) are open. The lights are linked to their website’s Seating tab , which updates automatically as the lights are changed.

Restaurant 5

The food and drinks we experienced in Sandusky were impressive, but the highlight of our visit was Sandusky’s Merry-Go-Round Museum. Opened in 1990, the Merry-Go-Round Museum got its start thanks to a simple stamp.

In 1988, the U.S. Postal Service issued a set of four stamps commemorating carousel figures from around the country. One of those featured was the King Armored horse at Cedar Point’s Kiddieland carousel.

To celebrate the first-day issue of the stamps, a group of residents decided to throw a party. They put together a carousel display, hoping a few hundred people would attend.  Instead, more than 2,000 showed up.

Now, the Merry-Go-Round Museum is filled with a menagerie of carousel animals including the traditional “painted ponies”, ostriches, giraffes, and a “sealobster.”

Their extensive collection includes all three styles of carousel horse – Coney Island, Philadelphia and County Fair, along with guides for visitors like me who didn’t even know there were specific carousel styles.

It’s one thing to marvel at these whimsical creatures; the Museum also gives you the opportunity to see one being made. Each year, the museum’s Master Carver Kate Adam and carving crew bring a carousel horse to life. The horse is then raffled off at their Toast to the Town fundraiser on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s raffle horse is Halloween-themed. When you visit the museum, don’t forget to stop by their workshop and check out its beautiful detailing.

Carousel 9

Admission to the museum is only $6 for adults, $4 for children (4-14), and free for children under 4. Every ticket includes one ride on the museum’s 1939 Allan Herschell carousel, filled with horses from the museum’s own collection and private collectors.

The evening we spent in Sandusky showed off the perfect balance their downtown has achieved – combining olde town charm with the dining, drinking, and other amenities you’d expect in a larger city.

The next chapter in my Lake Erie Love Story: Cedar Point, a destination not just for coaster fanatics, but families and history lovers alike!

Disclosure: I was invited on a 3-night/4 day blogger tour of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and other related posts are 100% my own.

Great Lakes Science Center Brews Up After-Dark Fun

I promised Scott another evening of me being the designated driver and he promised me another sonnet after the response to last week’s blog post. Enjoy!

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center's Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

Even without the Great Lakes Science Center’s Beer Goggles, their Home Brew event was a lot of fun

I am a big fan of the Great Lakes Science Center. Every time I go I have a great time. It’s an awesome space filled with experiments and exhibits that consistently entertain and educate me.

We’ve always enjoyed Yuri’s Night, so Amanda and I were very excited to learn the Science Center was continuing their events for the 21+ crowd will Science After Dark: Home Brew.

Home Brew, which took place a couple weeks ago, focused on the science behind brewing beer and coffee.

After settling in, our first stop was a presentation from Paul Benner and Reed Jaskula of The Cleveland Brew Shop. (Correction: Amanda’s first stop was the presentation, mine was for glasses of mead.)

I hadn’t expected the science and story of yeast (The Workhorse of Beer!) to be as entertaining as they made it, but hilarious drawings and a great dynamic made it a lot of fun.

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Tremble before the terror of Yeast! Kill it! KILL IT WITH FIRE!

After Paul and Reed wrapped up we stayed for Arthur Gugick’s presentation on Calculus and the Coliseum, an amazing presentation on the math used to create from-scratch LEGO art pieces and monuments. Mr. Gugick is the local Cleveland artist/genius whose work is highlighted as part of the Science Center’s LEGO exhibit.

Minds are about to be blown...into little LEGO shaped pieces.

Minds are about to be blown…into little LEGO shaped pieces.

I love LEGO and the temporary (now through September 7th) LEGO displays were something that I was really looking forward to seeing. I had no idea that a significant portion of the Science Center’s lower exhibit hall was going to be dedicated to landmarks, paintings, and other fantastical works all created by Mr. Gugick.

After thoroughly amazing us with the talent and creativity portrayed in his presentation, Amanda and I were energized to begin our exploration of the Science Center’s other entertainment and imbibements.

Regarding drinks, Amanda was the designated driver and quite enjoyed (and appreciated) Phoenix Coffee’s options. I tried a few wines, beers, and meads, but ultimately my favorite was Sunshine Daydream by Fat Head’s Brewery. It was light and crisp and quite a pleasant surprise!

Beverages are easy to pick favorites from, but I would be very hard-pressed to pick out my favorite activity from the evening’s selections. The Science Center really outdid itself.

The first one we encountered was the Make-It-Yourself Miniature Golf, where all the holes were fashioned from reclaimed and recycled material. All you needed was some duct tape, your imagination, and a couple extra hands and you had your own mini golf hole!

By the time Amanda and I arrived there were already quite a few constructed, so we concentrated on trying out other people’s creations.

I call this "Action Shot Amanda"

I call this “Action Shot Amanda”

We also stumbled (figuratively) across Beer Goggle Cornhole, where you wore goggles that simulated the wobbly vision of inebriation. We didn’t actually play much cornhole with them, but it was fun trying to walk straight lines with the great lake view before us.

Next we found the LEGO Daredevil High-wire Challenge…or it could have been named something else very similar, it’s hard remembering certain details after a few cups of beer! But it was a lot of fun creating a LEGO machine that could make it from the third floor to the second without falling from the wire. Mine smashed to pieces when it reached the bottom, but I still made it the whole way!

Another awesome part of the night was the Tabletop Cleveland area and creating our own board game pieces. Amanda and I put together our little monstrosities and then took part in the evolving board game. If you had to hop on one leg in order to gain points equivalent to Pi, you landed on my challenge. Sorry.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece - Mustachio Baseball Bat and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship - sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

My Cleveland Tabletop board game piece – Mustachio Sword and Pirate Bunny Drinking in a Rocket Ship – sits next to my bare-bones but uber-functional high-wire LEGO device.

As the evening began to near its end Amanda and I made our way down to the LEGO exhibit. It really is inspiring. I’m not even going to bother trying to describe the detail, wonder, and skill that is captured throughout both Mr. Gugick’s works and the traveling exhibit.

It is incredible – and fun – and should absolutely be checked out before it leaves on September 7th.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

LEGOs. Aw yeah.

As with my last entry I had also threatened promised to include a review a la sonnet, so here goes:

Great Lakes Science Center is quite a place,
Three stories of discovery await.
You will use the thinker behind your face,
Fun for the family, and even a date!

Science After Dark is really inspired,
Get out and learn with a drop of some brew.
With all that there is, your brain will not tire,
There’s so many sciences waiting for you!

Cleveland Brew Shop made yeast science funny.
Tabletop Cleveland brought fun you could make.
The Fat Head’s beer was really quite sunny,
Phoenix Coffee kept Amanda awake!

For a memory that is sure to stick,
Check out the LEGOs by Arthur Gugick!

Disclaimers: 

  • I am much happier with the rhymes in this sonnet. I thought that was worth you knowing. 
  • Amanda was offered tickets to attend Science After Dark in exchange for blogging about it. I got her second ticket because if she hadn’t let me go with her I would have whined like a sad puppy dog for well over a week. The decision to attend and post about an event is her own, based on whether she thinks it’s something that may also interest others.
  • My decision to blog about the event was actually my own this time. Because LEGO.

My #LakeErieLove Story: Still Smitten with Lake Erie Islands and Shores After All These Years

#LakeErieLove, Part 1

Disclaimer: Please excuse the sappiness in the next couple of paragraphs. I promise it’s connected to today’s blog post.

Many reflections on love focus on the falling into it. That first attraction. The squishy feeling of butterflies in your stomach. The anticipation of a first kiss or date.

That’s my least favorite part of love.

Sure, I enjoy the occasional rom-com (especially if a British accent is involved). And I still smile when thinking about my first memory of Scott. I saw him tuning a piano and thought ‘Oh, that’s an old-fashioned thing to do. I bet he’s nice.’

However, my favorite part of love is everything that comes after you get to know someone. I love the habits and shared interests that Scott and I developed over ten years. Not just because it’s comforting, but because every week, he or I do something that surprises the other, breaks that routine, and reminds us all over again why we love each other.

For instance, Scott’s mom dug up a binder last week that was filled with stuff Scott drew when he was a kid. As long as I’ve known him, Scott’s always claimed that he can’t draw.  So when I saw these imaginative character sketches and comic strips, I was blown away. They were amazing and showed me a different side of the fantastic, if not slightly odd, sense of humor I first fell in love with.

Binder

What does this have to do with the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, though?

Well, I realized on a recent trip to Sandusky and Put-in-Bay, that loving a place is very much like loving a person.

Our first summer after moving to Cleveland, Scott and I took a trip to Cedar Point and immediately became season passholders. It was the beginning of our love affair with the area and we tried stuffing in as many day and weekend trips to Sandusky, Port Clinton, Kelley’s Island and Put-in-Bay as we could.  In fact, closer proximity to the Lake Erie Shores and Island area is one reason we looked at Avon Lake when we considered moving from the eastside.

Last month, I had an incredible opportunity to spend three days exploring the Shores and Islands area with other Midwest bloggers. Going into the blogger tour, I thought that it would be an opportunity to reconnect with some of my favorite Lake Erie stomping grounds.

What I didn’t realize was how much of the area I had been missing out on. It was all of these surprises that deepened my #LakeErieLove.

lake erie love chairs

There were so many surprises, in fact, that I can’t fit them all in one blog post. So over the next month, I’ll be blogging once a week about what I learned about Sandusky, Cedar Point, and Put-in-Bay during my trip.

I also had a few random realizations that didn’t fit nicely into those posts, which I’m sharing today.  Enjoy!

Surprise #1: Cedar Point’s Family Care stations are wonderful.

Although I’ll have a full post dedicated to Cedar Point, today’s story is about my stupidity and the Cedar Point’s Family Care and First-Aid station.

A piece of advice: Don’t go looking for your car keys by jamming your hand blindly – and forcefully – into your tote bag. There’s a good chance your finger may come into contact with something very sharp.

I learned this the hard way as we were leaving Cedar Point for the day, and the result was not a mere paper cut that could be patched with a band-aid (though I’m very thankful that Dominique at Midwest Guest had some at the ready).

Fortunately, a park employee was nearby and rapidly escorted me to one of the park’s Family Care stations.

Earlier in the day, we had a chance to hear from Bryan Edwards, Cedar Point’s Public Relations Manager. While talking about the park’s renewed focus on family fun, he mentioned the two air-conditioned Family Care facilities, complete with private nursing stations, baby-changing and infant-feeding areas, and a cooldown room where you can watch Peanuts movies with your kids.

Cedar Point First Aid

The Family Care Centers are also First Aid stations offering over-the-counter medication, bandages and emergency care. 

Little did I know that I’d have the opportunity to experience it all firsthand!

Although I didn’t have a chance to catch the names of the park employee and medical staff I met during this incident (I was distracted by my bleeding hand), their kindness and patience impressed me as I rollercoastered between panic, embarrassment and, finally, relief at not needing stitches.

No one wants to visit the Family Care station, but if you do, you’ll be in good hands.

Another Cedar Point safety tip I learned: The concession stands and vendors will give you a free cup of water if you ask for it. It’s better to come prepared, but if you’re overheated and need water, ask for it. You – and the park – want you to have fun. Don’t ruin it with heatstroke.

Surprise #2: SawMill Creek is more than a golf course … much more.

Every time Scott and I drive to Cedar Point, we pass Sawmill Creek Resort. And every time we passed it on previous trips, I saw signs for the golf course and thought that’s all it offered.

Color me surprised when I stayed overnight during our blogger tour. Nestled a little ways off of Cleveland Road is Sawmill’s beautiful 235-acre getaway.

In addition to that 18-hole Tom Fazio Golf Course, Sawmill offers a sprawling lodge, marina, restaurants, indoor and outdoor pools, private beach access, tennis, and nature walks through the Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve.

Lake Erie Love Sawmill

I was only there for one night so I didn’t have a chance to check out all of the resort’s amenities. However, the outdoor pool+bar area was beautiful; the staff I spoke with at the frontdesk, in the Salmon Run restaurant and the Black Bear Saloon were very friendly; and the resort’s Native American exhibits added an educational touch to my strolls through the property.

Although the room I stayed in could have benefited from a few updates, it was still comfortable. Plus, the other amenities and resort’s peacefulness made up for it.  I will definitely be checking it out the next time I’m looking for an overnight stay in the area.  

Surprise #3: Check out ShoresandIslands.com, even if you know the area.

On trips to Put-in-Bay, I’ve seen the guidebooks and signs advertising the Lake Erie Shores and Islands organization. But it wasn’t until this tour that I recognized the full scope of their region and resources.

Their site is a huge help if:

My favorite part of the site is their interactive map of the full region linked to an Itinerary Planner.  Since returning from the #LakeErieLove tour, it’s come in handy a few times. Most recently, it led us to the Tin Goose Diner when we were looking for a place to eat in Port Clinton. The 1950s-era diner and Liberty Aviation Museum are a must-see.

Come back next week for my post about downtown Sandusky. Until then, here’s a teaser photo of one of the things we got up to:

Sandusky Merry Go Round Museum

Disclosure: I was invited on a 3-night/4 day blogger tour of the Lake Erie Shores and Islands, in exchange for writing about my experience. Opinions in this and future posts are 100% my own.