It’s hard to believe our family road trip to Cedar Point Amusement Park was already 2 months ago. Time does fly! September is one of our favorite times to travel because most summer attractions are still open even if they have limited hours, and the crowds are much smaller since so many kids are back to school. Even if your kids are in school you can get creative with school holidays.
When you travel in the early fall, you do have to schedule more of your visits ahead of time as some attractions are closed certain days, especially Mondays, but there are still many things to see even on a whim AND a budget. Ready for a whirlwind Manchester, NH – Sandusky, OH trip in 5 days?
Thursday, September 15th – Day 1 of RTKB Family Road Trip 2016
Today’s objective? Get in a good chunk of travel time so we have less travel tomorrow. It’s always nice to pull in to our destination with time to spare instead of feeling rushed and like we are dragging in just to collapse in bed. We decided to stay in Liverpool, NY since it is relatively close to halfway and has an inexpensive hotel with breakfast just off the exit.
We pulled in around 9 PM and decided to find a restaurant before checking in at the hotel. This started the downhill slide for the evening. Very little was open at this time and we ended up eating at Denny’s across the street. There were only two saving graces with this choice – food came fast and they were running a program for No Kid Hungry. Really, why was everything finished with some sort of oily spray? Gross.
We checked into our hotel and I won’t even go into how awful it was. The Quality Inn is renovating in 2017 and I sure hope they renovate EVERYTHING, including their housekeeping and front desk staff. I don’t like to publicly call out a hotel but for your own good don’t stay there until they make improvements. After conversing with the general management they did comp our stay, which is much appreciated in terms of customer service.
Friday, September 16th – Day 2 of RTKB Family Road Trip 2016
We hit the road at 5:30 AM and grabbed Dunkin Donuts at a rest stop along the highway. Yes, our hotel stay was THAT bad that we didn’t hang around for breakfast – free or not. Frugal has limits. Added bonus is that we now had more time to travel at our leisure and make unplanned stops, like surprising the kids with a detour to Niagara Falls. NIAGARA FALLS! YES! Bucket list item checked off.
Niagara Falls is amazing even just standing at the top of a cliff looking across the water to the falls. Absolutely stunning. Just like the Grand Canyon, we think calendar and postcard pictures do a complete disservice to these majestic sites. Tricks of cameras and angles make them appear a little larger than life. That being said, we were blown away by the falls and the fact that Canada is just a bridge walk away.
Once we were back on the road we traveled until mid-afternoon when we made a stop at Steak ‘n Shake, something we only get to do when we’re in the Midwest. We grabbed a $25 gift card while we were there since they had a promotion for a free meal when you bought one because we knew we’d gladly use it at some point in the weekend.
We pulled in to Cedar Point Amusement Park in the early afternoon and promptly made ourselves comfortable in the newly renovated rooms, thankful we had a few hours to relax before I registered for Bloggy Con 2016 at 5. We booked a Lakeview Suite, which was nice and spacious for a family of 5.
The one thing to note is that the 2 beds are in one room and a pullout couch is in the sitting room so there is no opportunity to have some privacy AND a comfortable bed. However, we would stay in this suite again in a heartbeat. The rooms come with a small kitchen cubby with a cabinet, sink, microwave and mini fridge, perfect for stashing some easy meals and water bottles.
Before I went to conference registration I started the slow cooker with a soup made from all the veggies we cleaned out of the refrigerator before we left home. Hey, why waste them? May as well bring them for a meal. Once we registered we eagerly hit the park for an evening of rides, determined to get in a few of our favorites and see what was new. We got back to the room late and had nice hot bowls of soup before heading to bed.
Saturday, September 17th – Day 3 of RTKB Family Road Trip 2016
This is actually a work/ family vacation road trip so while I spent the morning and early afternoon in conference sessions the rest of the family hit the park the minute the gates opened. The nice thing about staying at Hotel Breakers is you’re right up the Boardwalk from the park and get early entrance. The only down side they found is only select thriller rides are open that early. This is great for those who love the big roller coasters but not so fun for those who want to enjoy milder roller coasters or calmer rides. We still saw the benefit to the park doing this as a courtesy to guests.
We brought everything we needed for cereal, sandwiches, and salads so my family met me back at the hotel mid-afternoon to eat lunch then I headed back to the park with them until we got rained out. At that point we headed to Sandusky to grab dinner and wait out the rain. We used our Steak ‘n Shake gift card, free meal voucher, and enjoyed the benefit of the ‘kids eat free’ for the youngest then left as the rain started to calm.
Once we got back to the park the rain dissipated and we headed back out to the park. Some of our favorite rides didn’t reopen but we had many others to enjoy and were able to have a fun night, walking and riding until my feet felt like they would fall off. We made sure to hit all the rides I wanted to ride in case we didn’t want to stay long the next day.
Sunday, September 18th – Day 4 of RTKB Family Road Trip 2016
Sunday. So sad, our last day at Cedar Point. I had a morning of sessions and my family hit the park again after they checked out and put our luggage in the van. They decided not to ride too many more rides and by the time I was done around 11 AM, they were ready to hit the road. While at the conference I was talking to one of my New Jersey friends who grew up outside Buffalo and she recommended a couple hotels in Batavia, NY in case we decided to stop for the night in that area.
We didn’t stop many places along the way, but did make a pit stop at Chipotle for lunch. Chipotle is one of the few quick service restaurants we like (Moe’s, Chick-fil-A, and Steak ‘n Shake add to that list) and we took advantage of the kids eat free on Sundays that was happening in September.Travel Savings Tip: Research restaurant deals on a family #roadtrip to save a little money for fun. @heatherlmccurdyClick To Tweet
Since it was about halfway home we decided to take her up on that suggestion and stayed at the Comfort Inn Batavia, which was a great recommendation. The staff was courteous, the rooms were nicely decorated, and even more importantly, the rooms were clean and fresh.
That night Dave and I ordered to-go from Alex’s Place Restaurant in Batavia. He had a burger and I tried the Danish Onion Soup. While blue cheese in my “French” onion soup was a little different, I really enjoyed it. Even though the burger wasn’t anything spectacular, it was cooked well and had a nice flavor.
Monday, September 19th – Day 5 of RTKB Family Road Trip 2016
The kids had perused the “what to see” brochure display at the hotel and grabbed a few things that looked like fun and Dave surfed the internet to see what else he could find in the area. When he looked up the JELL-O Gallery Museum (LeRoy, NY) they came across it led him to the Underground Railroad self-guided driving tour, also in LeRoy, so first thing in the morning after breakfast at the hotel, we headed out to drive along the Underground Railroad stops and learn about the area before heading to the JELL-O Gallery.
Since the JELL-O Museum didn’t open until 10 we also stopped at an apple stand to grab some of our favorite NY apples and cider then drove back to town to wait for the museum to open.
The funny thing about the JELL-O Gallery is that we actually don’t even make JELL-O in our house. Growing up I remember all the “fancy” JELL-O and fruit/vegetable salads at church potlucks, the kid-favorite finger JELL-O, and trendy JELL-O molds. You all know what I’m talking about, right? It was really cool to learn all the information and history of JELL-O packed into the tiny little space, including the story behind the giraffe in the corner. You’ll have to go there to learn why there’s a real giraffe in the corner of the space.
We also went downstairs to use the restrooms before leaving town and visited the Transportation Museum. This is a small room that has a variety of old wagons, sleighs, and an old car, but it was fascinating also.
With that, we left town and headed toward home, plotting a few more stops – like lunch and apple picking. We didn’t end up finding a place that was close enough to the highway to pick apples but stopped at Nail Creek Pub and Brewery in Utica, NY for lunch.
We found street parking quite easily but saw they also have a parking lot to the side of the building. We got several meals to split as we generally do when stopping at restaurants on our family road trips. I share more about this meal here, but the family favorite was poutine topped with pulled pork.
With full stomachs, we hit the road and headed toward Albany, NY. Knowing we were running out of daylight, we decided to make a quick stop at Lindsey’s Country Store in Clifton Park, NY, a place we used to get our cider and apple cider donuts when we lived in that area. The apple cider donuts and cider didn’t disappoint. They were just as good as we remembered and made a great snack as we headed across Vermont and New Hampshire for our final stop – home.
Driving through the mountains of Vermont is always a breathtaking experience and we were able to enjoy the scenery and yet were sobered by the signs of this summer’s drought with creeks and rivers showing layers of sediment usually hidden by running water.
We finally reached home in the late evening and unpacked everything, throwing loads of laundry in the washer to get a quick start back to normal everyday life. After all, Tuesday was back to work for us and school for the kids. After the crazy upside down summer we had, which included a 2 week stint at tent living, this family road trip filled with fun was just the thing we needed.