Product Review: Solar Media Player

Solar Media Player by Secur Products is a Rainproof, Shock Proof Speaker that Doubles as a Solar Charging Phone Case

Cell phones batteries can last for days ­ if you are not running any apps or streaming music. Using these features on a phone can zap a battery in less than an hour. Secur Products has created a solar cell phone case that can charge phones while protecting them from drops, water and dust.

Solar Media Player 1

While camping in the woods, relaxing in the backyard with friends, waiting for the next act at a music festival, or enjoying nature in another way the only music source available could be a phone.

Just this weekend we used ours while waiting for fireworks on July 4th! (you know the drill, hurry up and get a prime spot on the lawn, lay out the blanket, grab a treat…and then wait an hour or two for the main event!)

And how many times do you go to a cookout and the host tries to blare music from a sound system indoors which ends up muffled outdoors?

Plus, we’ve had several times when we were outdoors, far from any electrical outlet to recharge…and our battery dies! Now, sun or clouds, we have a portable charging station that is light to carry and the size of a large glasses case.

Secur Products Solar Media Player1

Simply unzip the Solar Media Player, connect a phone or MP3 player, zip it closed and the Solar Media Player will simultaneously function as a speaker and solar phone charger. The Solar Media Player is rainproof, dust proof and shock proof. Once a smartphone or MP3 player is safely stowed inside, it will be protected from the elements and accidents.

Geek Facts: The 7.28 inch by 3.74 inch by 1.77 inch Solar Media Player is large enough to hold most smartphones including the iPhone 6 and Samsung Galaxy S5. It features two 3-watt stereo speakers, a built in 2000 mAh power bank and a 5.5V solar panel. When a phone is connected to the Solar Media Player it can draw power from the power bank, or the solar panel can charge both the phone and the power bank at the same time. Other features of the Solar Media Player include a battery light indicator and a carabineer that can be used to hang the speaker.

The Solar Media Player has an MSRP of $49.99. For more information visit www.securproducts.com.

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PLAYTIME @ MAUMEE BAY / TOLEDO (Day Two)

DAY TWO

Moms everywhere are planning their family vacations for the year.  Destination Toledo and Ohio State Parks are here to help mom out by providing a slew of great ideas for a family getaway to Northwest Ohio!

Start your journey at the Toledo Zoo (KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 217), one of the nation’s top-ranked zoos and the number one attraction in Toledo!  Immerse yourself in the heart of Africa on the Safari Railway through a 5-acre African habitat teeming with giraffes, zebra and all the wilds of Africa.  Grab lunch at the Carnivore Café before enjoying your whirlwind trip through the Arctic Encounter, Hippoquarium, Nature’s Neighborhood, Museum of Science and Aquarium…your journey is endless! The new aquarium was funded by locals, so it’s their pride and joy. I particularly loved that the zoo keeps many old structures and recycles them. For instance, the old lion and tiger cages are now the Carnivore Café – indoor seating in actual barred cages!

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Take a break and relax with a view of the beautiful downtown Toledo skyline at one of several restaurants located at the Docks (22 Main Street, www.realseafoodcorestaurant.com). Enjoy the picturesque riverfront on the outdoor patio of Real Seafood for an afternoon nibble and a cold drink. They bring in fresh seafood from the Atlantic, Pacific and Great Lakes. Many rave about their crab cakes. I liked their selection of locally caught Perch or Walleye. Lunch runs $10-$13. Dinner runs about double. Entrees include two sides. I recommend you try their blue cheese vinaigrette coleslaw with any fish entrée. All kids meals include a beverage and the entrees (shrimp, burger, tenders, spaghetti, etc) run $5.95. On a nice day, try to get a patio seat. Really good view.

Get ready for some fun in the sun!  Head out to the 1,850-acre Maumee Bay State Park (KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 220) and play on the beach on the shores of Lake Erie. Rent a jet ski, kayak or a banana boat and venture out on the water.  Take a nature walk on the marshland boardwalk teeming with wildlife, or bike along one of the winding trails with stunning views. Options include the Nature Center, geocaching, court sports, horseshoes, children’s activities, swimming (inside or out), hot tubs, children’s soft play area, fitness room, game room, corn-hole, shuffleboard, fishing, canoeing and paddle boating. And dad will love the 18-hole Scottish Links golf course!

OSPL_MB Kids fishing on lakewall 1

The fishing pier is tiered steps leading right into the water. Once you’re down in there, you escape the resort view and feel like you’re at a favorite fishing hole!

maumee bay indoor pool

Indoor waterplay space

OSPL_MB Kids soft play area 2

Soft play area

OSPL_MB Kids at nature center 6

Nature Center is very hands-on.

OSPL_MB Kids in indoor splash area 3

Indoor splash pad area.

OSPL_MB Girl in outdoor pool

OSPL_MB Kids playing in sand 1

A nice beach for swim and play.

OSPL_MB Kids in game room

After an afternoon of sun and fun, it’s time to check in at the Maumee Bay Lodge & Conference Center. Whether you opt for one of the fully-furnished cozy cottages, or select a loft-style room at the lodge, your stay is sure to be a delight. Simple furnishings for old-fashioned fun.

No need to leave the park for dinner!  Water’s Edge Restaurant encompasses a breathtaking glass wrap-around view of Lake Erie with a variety of choices to suit every appetite. This is not your typical state park dining. The chef uses mostly local ingredients and prepares gourmet entrees that have appealing subtle look and flavor. If you’re there for brunch, it’s so diverse. Come hungry. After dinner, hang out at either the outdoor or indoor pool, or soak in the warmth of the relaxing whirlpool or sauna. Then, watch a feature movie inside or a bonfire and roast s’mores outside.

OSPL_MB Kids at ice cream shop 1

The ice cream shop was hopping! Veryyyy large portions!

OSPL_MB Group making smores

A bonfire and smores – at dusk. Perfect ending to the day!

 

Well mom, what did you think?  We hope you enjoy your family getaway to Toledo and Northwest Ohio!  For more ideas for your next adventure, visit www.VisitToledo.org or www.maumeebaystateparklodge.com

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PLAYTIME @ MAUMEE BAY / TOLEDO (Day One)

Moms everywhere are planning their family vacations for the year.  Destination Toledo and Ohio State Parks are here to help mom out by providing a slew of great ideas for a family getaway to Northwest Ohio!

DAY ONE

First stop on our Playtime tour is an art museum? The contemporary art show Play Time (Toledo Museum of Art, KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 219, FREE admission) poses a serious question about a seemingly unserious topic: Is play—the spontaneous, unstructured time found to foster creativity and problem-solving skills—strictly for kids?

“As we grow up we tend to trivialize play and relegate it to childhood, but it’s an important element of life that we wanted to explore in this exhibition,” said Halona Norton-Westbrook, the Museum’s Mellon fellow and associate curator of contemporary art. “This show is not only about play in the traditional sense, but also the idea of being in the moment, of inspiring wonder, of invoking your natural curiosity.”

And we were in the moment…giggles, smiles, and awe…as we interacted with art instead of just looking at it.

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And the rest of the museum isn’t too shabby either. Probably my favorite space is the Glass Pavilion. The Glass Pavilion is—in itself—a work of art. All exterior and nearly all interior walls consist of large panels of curved glass, resulting in a transparent structure that blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior spaces. You are greeted by a clear glass “fish-looking” Chihuly sculpture and then drawn in further by the live glass-blowing artists at work.

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Toledo’s newest attraction, the National Museum of the Great Lakes (KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 216), reveals the haunting and fascinating history of our treasured Great Lakes that happen to make up 84 percent of the fresh surface water in North America.
The main emphasis is on the new museum at the Toledo Maritime Center with a complete experience for visitors of all ages to include: original artifacts (some from horrific shipwrecks like the Edmund Fitzgerald); over 40 hands-on exhibits (for example: direct your own submersible through the wreckage of a lost freighter or keep your own ship afloat by operating a real bilge pump); the real life-size S.S. Col. James M. Schoonmaker Museum Ship sits outside the museum for touring; and for waterside wonderers – A beautifully landscaped 3.5 acre maritime-themed park.

great lakes museum

Ever felt the whipping winds of a hurricane? Step inside the hurricane chamber at the brand new Imagination Station (KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 215) and your answer can be ‘Yes’.  This brand new attraction promises to engage visitors of every age in a multi-sensory experience that’s as fun as it is educational.  Defy gravity as you ride the High Wire Cycle, or bounce on the BOYO, a human YoYo. We especially liked the science experiments where it was “old-school” science museum – kids and parents helped make the tests work! I even beat my athlete son at the Pendulum Pull. Brains over Brawn…

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Batter up!  Family fun is waiting for you as the Toledo Mud Hens (KIDS LOVE OHIO pg 217) play ball at Fifth Third Field!  Grab some popcorn, cotton candy and a cold drink and settle in to this unique ballpark situated in the historic downtown landscape of the Warehouse District.  We love and support AAA ball…it’s so fan friendly for the price. Not only do you get to see MLB up n comers but it’s likely you’ll see major league stars playing off the dust during rehab. We liked the way this park was setup too. Any seat ticket holder can enter the Club Level Lounge to cool off, catch some stats from other games being played, or grab some upscale food that’s fairly priced.

Well mom, what did you think?  We hope you enjoy your family getaway to Toledo and Northwest Ohio!  For more ideas for your next adventure, visit www.VisitToledo.org or www.maumeebaystateparklodge.com

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Teens Do Country in Nashville

In Nashville, it is truly all about the music. Music is woven into every corner downtown. www.visitmusiccity.com

So we ventured around town with our teens for a day or two trying to catch that country vibe best…(and stayed within 4 blocks on/near Broadway)

Country Music Hall of Fame (PG 32, KIDS LOVE TENNESSEE, 232 Fifth Avenue South, http://countrymusichalloffame.org/) has a lot more interactive areas than we remember from previous visits. Now kids and teens can really engage their talents with inspiring creative activities and scavenger hunts…

cmhof giant guitar

cmhof interactive station

Expansion: The new Taylor Swift Education Center is a “learning lab” as well as a children’s exhibit gallery…perfect for the younger set.

cmhof youth center

Johnny Cash Museum – 119 Third Avenue South. www.johnnycash.com. The museum is dedicated to “The Man in Black”, which, btw, is a super cool legend to teens. Lots of interesting never before seen letters, costumes and instruments reside in themed displays while Johnny’s music plays in the background.

GooGoo Shop – It’s a Honky Tonk for your taste buds! (across street from Johnny Cash Museum).  116 Third Avenue South. www.googoo.com. Invented in 1912 in a copper kettle right here in Nashville, the GooGoo Cluster is the world’s first combination candy bar. The Goo Goo Shop is more than a shop. It’s also a museum, a candy kitchen and a piece of Nashville history. Open daily.

Honky Tonk Highway – Music City’s honky tonks line both sides of Broadway and pump live music into the streets all day, every day. There’s no cover charge but the tip jar gets passed around for those wanting to appreciate the musicians. The music starts at 10am with the party lasting until 3 in the morning. Many clubs require ID after dark so enjoying this “highway” is best with teens to catch lunch or early dinner. Tootsie’s and Tequila Cowboy were our favs!

Wildhorse Saloon – (pg 50, KIDS LOVE TENNESSEE) 120 Second Avenue North www.wildhorsesaloon.com. This famous hot spot features hot bands, good food, fun drinks and line dancing fun! Our baseball team of teens joined us for dinner and dancing and…though reluctant at first, they loved it! (probably didn’t hurt there were pretty country girls in boots smiling at them from the dance floor)

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Wildhorse is one of few venues playing live music evenings that is family friendly.       (youth are allowed entrance evenings accompanied by an adult)                                        The parents tagging along had as much fun watching our kids as we did learning a new dance step or two…

wildhorse saloon

Clarion Hotel Nashville Downtown – www.continentalinnsofamerica.com. 211 North 1st Street. The biggest draw to this lodging – the free downtown shuttle service and the fair price – about $120/night. Other perks: free deluxe hot breakfast buffet, mini fridge & micro in room, indoor pool & fitness center, lobby bistro & bar, nice renovated rooms. The staff were very welcoming and helpful as we tried to navigate the shuttle and all we wanted to do while downtown.

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KIDS LOVE TRAVEL @ Midwest Homeschool Convention (with really good deals!)

Homeschool Friends stop by and say hi. Best.Deals.Ever at my Kids Love Travel booth #1711. 
Workshop Saturday afternoon: KIDS LOVE STATE HISTORY – REALLY!
One Travel Family has Learned How to “Sneak” History into Fun Family Trips
Let’s Learn How They Do It.

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Do you Like us on Facebook? If not, you’re missing some good tidbits…

car tripGosh I love Saturday mornings on FB! Discovered 3 travel tips I forgot about:
1. use dryer sheets as air fresheners and spill picker uppers
2. freeze juice boxes before road trip – they double as mini ice packs and a slushie drink!
3. use old fitted twin sheets as van seat protectors

I love this idea! Parents, would you use this?http://www.tottoos.org/home.html

tottoos

Need last minute ‪#‎springbreak‬ ideas? Half price #springbreak sale onAmazon.com  http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0982288026/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_myi?m=AS1C0S0ORQ4YAKLPA-2010-Cover

 

I just did a live interview with Newstalk 610 CKTB this morning about family travel up and down interstates. Canada loves I-75 too!
SPRING SALE – Only $6.00 on Amazon.com for a limited time:http://www.amazon.com/dp/098228800X/…
As always, access to free updates once you purchase the book:http://www.kidslovetravel.com/updates.htm

'I just did a live interview with @[330318941205:274:Newstalk 610 CKTB] this morning about family travel up and down interstates. Canada loves I-75 too!<br />
SPRING SALE - Only $6.00 on @[9465008123:274:Amazon.com] for a limited time: http://www.amazon.com/dp/098228800X/?tag=googhydr-20&hvadid=46471652587&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17227337309052654790&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&hvdev=c&ref=pd_sl_7ghbp4o1n1_b<br />
As always, access to free updates once you purchase the book: http://www.kidslovetravel.com/updates.htm'

 

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Top 10 Tips for Safe Car Travel With Your Pet

Please see the following tips to help you prepare for a safe and smooth car trip:

dogs on vacation

  1. Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. There are a variety of wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided carriers available. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. And P.S., it’s smart to get your pet used to the carrier in the comfort of your home before your trip.
  1. Get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. And please be sure to always secure the crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.
  1. Your pet’s travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure. Don’t feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle—even if it is a long drive.
  1. Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
  1. What in your pet’s traveling kit? In addition to travel papers, food, bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and a pet first-aid kit, pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
  1. Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and wears a collar with a tag imprinted with your home address, as well as a temporary travel tag with your cell phone, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke!) collars, please!
  1. Don’t allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window. He could be injured by flying objects. And please keep him in the back seat in his crate or with a harness attached to a seat buckle.
  1. Traveling across state lines? Bring along your pet’s rabies vaccination record, as some states requires this proof at certain interstate crossings. While this generally isn’t a problem, it’s always smart to be on the safe side.
  1. When it comes to H2O, we say BYO. Opt for bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an area he’s not used to could result in tummy upset for your pet.
  1. If you travel frequently with your pet, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers, available at auto product retailers.

For more information, please visit www.splashanddashfordogs.com

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Make the Season Merry At a National Wildlife Refuge

Walk in a winter wonderland. Hear sleigh bells ring. Make the season bright at a national wildlife refuge near you. Check out some of the free, family-friendly holiday-season activities that refuges will host through the New Year. Look here for added listings as the holidays draw closer.

sleigh ride

Winter Tram Tour

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, VA (KIDS LOVE VIRGINIA, pg 192)
Take a ride on an open-air tram and see the ducks, geese and swans that make the refuge their winter home. Continue into False Cape State Park for a one-mile hike to the Wash Woods cemetery and church site. $8 per person. Reservations are required: 757-426-7128. Dates are:
November 9, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
November 23, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
December 7, 1 to 4:30 p.m.
December 21, 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Holiday Bazaar
November 15, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Patuxent Research Refuge, MD
Shop for wild and not-so-wild, new and gently used treasures. Find unique gifts that support the Patuxent Research Refuge and the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

Okefenokee Pioneer Day
November 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, GA (KIDS LOVE GEORGIA, pg 145)
Visit the Chesser Island Homestead to discover how people once lived in southeast Georgia. Learn how settlers made soap, brooms, butter, quilts and other everyday items. Watch a sugar cane boil and taste the cane juice.

Assateague Island Waterfowl Weekend
November 27 – 30 Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, VA (KIDS LOVE VIRGINIA, pg 141)
The refuge will host an open house and offer special events in conjunction with the festival, which marks the fall migration of waterfowl to the refuge.

Holiday Open House
December 4, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. — Cypress Creek National Wildlife Refuge, IL
Celebrate the holiday season with refuge Friends, staff and volunteers. Sample a variety of holiday food and learn about the refuge and Friends of the Cache River Watershed.

Winter Open House
December 6, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, WI ((KIDS LOVE WISCONSIN, pg 142)
Enjoy musical performances by popular artists Ken Lonnquist and Dave Adler at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. There will also be nature crafts and outdoor activities, and discounts at the Coot’s Corner Bookstore.

Open House
December 7, noon to 4 p.m. — Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, OH
Enjoy a warm fire, festive music, kids’ crafts, good company and holiday gifts at the bookstore. Two neighboring conservation organizations, Black Swamp Bird Observatory and the state-managed Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, will also hold open houses the same day.

Snowshoe Habitat Hike
December 13, 10 to 11 a.m. — Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, WI (KIDS LOVE WISCONSIN, pg 6)
Explore the refuge and search for winter wildlife and tracks on a free one-mile snowshoe hike. Warm up with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa. Some snowshoes in adult and children’s sizes are available to borrow. If there’s not enough snow for snowshoes, enjoy a winter hike instead. Snowshoeing is a great activity for all ages.

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Eight Wild Facts about Wild Turkeys

#6. That Funny-Looking Bird is Faster Than You

So you thought there was nothing to know about turkeys except whether you liked drumsticks or white meat. Think again.

wild turkeys

  1. Enough with gobble, gobble. Turkeys also cluck http://bit.ly/1sfVooH and purr http://bit.ly/1sfVooH.
  2. Turkey droppings tell a bird’s sex and age. Male droppings are j-shaped; female droppings are spiral-shaped. The larger the diameter, the older the bird.
  3. Feather-hanger: An adult turkey has 5,000 to 6,000 feathers – count them! – on its body.
  4. Tom turkeys aren’t the only ones that swagger and fan their tail feathers to woo mates and ward off rivals. Some hens strut, too.
  5. Crunchy treats. Young turkeys – poults – scarf down insects like candy. They develop more of a taste for plants after they’re four weeks old.
  6. They may look off-kilter – tilting their heads and staring at the sky –yet but they’re fast. Turkeys can clock more than 12 miles per hour.
  7. Move over, American bald eagle. Ben Franklin called the wild turkey a “bird of courage” and thought it would make a better national symbol.
  8. Wild turkeys are not hard to find. National wildlife refuges are great places to look —while you enjoy a stroll in nature and emerge looking less like a butterball yourself. Here are some favorite turkey hideouts:

FLORIDA
St Marks National Wildlife Refuge (KIDS LOVE FLORIDA, pg 97)
To boost your chances of seeing turkeys, get out of your car and walk. “Turkeys are sensitive to the movement of vehicles,” says Ranger David Moody. Wearing camo colors might help, too. The refuge permits bow hunting the first two weeks in November. Then it closes to hunting until December 13. Almost 50 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail go through the refuge. Turkeys like the open terrain of the longleaf pine sandhill ecosystem along the trail. $5 entrance fee.

GEORGIA
Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge
Look for turkeys along 50 miles of gravel road, including five-mile-long Wildlife Drive.  You might also see them off Round Oak Juliette Road, a scenic (and paved) byway. Or try one of the refuge’s five hiking trails. No entrance fee. (Note: the refuge is closed for a deer hunt Saturday, Nov. 22.)

ILLINOIS
Wild Turkey Trail — Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge (KIDS LOVE ILLINOIS, pg 171)
Easy to moderate 1.7- mile trail leads through woods and offers a fine chance of seeing wild turkeys. For more of a challenge, take the connecting 2.2-mile Rocky Bluff Trail. Entrance fee: $2 per vehicle.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge
The 9-mile Wildlife Drive passes many woods and fields where you might spot turkeys, especially in mornings and late afternoons. Or lose the wheels and walk any of seven hiking trails along the drive. No entrance fee.

CAPTION: Wild turkeys strut and display at John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, PA. Photo: Copyright Bill Buchanan. Used with permission.

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Travel Book Review: Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes

The perfect travel guide for baseball fans who want to see more of the great ballparks in America’s heartland, this handy guide gives you the tips for best lodging, great restaurants, and local attractions for the Major League and minor league cities and towns that dot the Midwest. With details about every ballpark from Major League Baseball to the Frontier League, this travel companion tells you the best places to sit, the best ballpark food to eat, and the best places to go around town when you are not at the ballpark.

baseball road trips

As a huge baseball fan, I couldn’t wait to dig into this book (sent complimentary for unbiased review). I really liked the format (easy reading) and callouts (interesting sidebar notes). As a journalist, I wanted to especially compare my personal experiences at many of these ballparks to that of the authors…and I learned some stuff along the way!

Since I’m biased towards a certain MLB team, I refrained from examining the major league ballparks too much. After all, we visit those predominantly to watch our fave team play, not really for the ballpark.

But the minor league ballparks are a different story. Here’s some examples:

1. INDIANA – South Bend Silver Hawks – Four Winds Field – my review was more recent and favorable (http://kidslovetravel.com/familytravelblog/fun-in-south-bend-indiana/) but we both agree this is a resurgence ballpark finding its following near Notre Dame campus.

2. KENTUCKY – Louisville Bats – Louisville Slugger Field – now here’s where I learned something very unique – how the Pittsburgh Pirates got the name “Pirates” – when the city’s ballclub fell victim to a pirate in 1899 – not the type of pirate you may think (pg 77). This ballpark is too fun (http://kidslovetravel.com/familytravelblog/?p=2561)

3. OHIO – Columbus Clippers – Huntington Park – my adult hometown set in the heart of the Arena district and Short North arts district, this newer ballpark is also home to Dime a Dog night and Buck a Bone (ribs) night. Live bands on summer weekends and plenty of craft brews now offered make this a fun park to buy a $7 standing room only ticket and wander the park set in the heart of the city. As the author says, “The fans of Columbus also have a good view no matter where they sit.”

From taking in a AAA game with the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines and visiting the Field of Dreams to knowing how to best experience Target Field in the Twin Cities, Baseball Road Trips: The Midwest and Great Lakes is all you need to plan a dream baseball road trip.

Triumph Books, $16.95, http://www.triumphbooks.com/baseball-road-trips–the-midwest-and-great-lakes-products-9781600789694.php

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