Review: Orchid Mania (Cleveland Botanical Gardens)

160224 Cleveland Botanical Gardens

Have you checked out Orchid Mania (Cleveland Botanical Gardens)? This once a year event highlights the beauty of the orchid family of flora, bringing hundreds of orchid variety on display throughout the Cleveland Botanical Gardens.

Over the years, I have tried my greenthumb at a variety of plants. Sometimes my work resulted in the direct result of less oxygen creating species on this planet, resulting in the demise of the species. However, with several years of experience tending to plants and flora, I have become rather good at nursing a plant back into a beautiful species. No where is that more apparent than in the orchid variety of flora.

After getting my first couple orchids, they lost their flowers as all do. However, their leafy greens continued to flourish, and despite my wife telling me I should throw them out, I have managed to bring them all back into gorgeous blooms at least once per year.

Orchids take a good deal of patience and the right conditions to get them to flower again. Fortunately, I keep our orchids, now numbering a half dozen at indirect light windows, water once per week with a good soaking, and give periodic fertilizer and repotting when necessary.

So I had a big urge to visit the Cleveland Botanical Gardens Orchid Mania display for many years. This year when Orchid Mania appeared on Groupon, I knew our family had to take advantage of the offer. For only $20, I got our entire family into the event (I actually saved 20% on top of that with the weekly promo code).

Get your discounted tickets to Orchid Mania.

Our family had been to the Botanical Gardens a handful of times; however, in order to use the Groupon, it has to be used on a Wednesday evening, giving you a different view of the property at night.

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (1)

160224 Orchid Mania Butterfly Cleveland Botanical Gardens (7)

After enjoying the large variety of orchid blooms in the lobby and main hallway, we opted to enjoy a quick healthy bite to eat at the Botanical Gardens Cafe, offering fresh salad, fruit, yogurt, and sandwich offerings. The food was fantastic and healthy all at the same time.

Once darkness had set in, we went into the main atrium. Having the environment dimly lit created a whole new experience for all of us. The dark allowed us to see all the plants and few animal habitats in a new “light.” While you may not have been able to see the orchids in all of their glory, if you looked closely, there were many hidden gems to be discovered.

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (6)

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (5)

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (4)

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (3)

160224 Orchid Mania Cleveland Botanical Gardens (2)

I love seeing all the many variety of orchids on display, and it inspires me to keep on with the hard work on the promise of a gorgeous annual bloom.

While there were other kids at the facility for Orchid Mania, it appears to be more of a date night or girls night out event. There is a small play area towards the end on the upper level, giving the kids a chance to escape for putting up with dads staring at plants.

Review: Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky

Have you stayed at one of the Great Wolf Lodge properties? Our family had the privilege to stay at the Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, Ohio recently as part of a long weekend. We opted to take advantage of a deal through Groupon, offering us a Loft Fireplace Suite for 8 guests that included a $25 dining credit for $249. After taxes and resort fee, the total was $304.60. Even with the Groupon discount, for over $300 per night, it is a lot to swallow for only a single night. So does it live up to the high cost?

After checking in, our room was not ready yet, so we headed straight to the waterpark, which guests can get in as early as 1:00 pm. With only one entrance into the waterpark, the facility made for an excellent way to conveniently keep track of your kids. Our two oldest went off and explored within view of us while we watched our youngest in some of the little kid pools.

The park featured almost everything you would come to expect from a waterpark, with the exception of a wave pool, which was fine with us. While smaller, Great Wolf Lodge did provide a lazy river, beautiful hot tubs surrounded by faux rocks, and a variety of climbing and slide complexes for the kids.

We were most surprised by the two large slides that you ride down in tubes. They were very fast with some nice small drops that made them really thrilling for kids and adults of all ages.

160209 Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky (1)

160209 Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky (2)

We also happen to be celebrating our kids birthdays during our visit. Their wristbands granted them free ice cream throughout the property which they more than took advantage of to fill their tummies. We also used our $25 dining credit towards some slices of pizza and the $1 upcharge of Dippin’ Dots.

The resort also offers a Native American/Nature show in the lobby with animatronic figures. While it may have been entertaining for kids, the sound quality needed some improvement.

The facility also offered face painting, story time, and a variety of other activities. For an additional fee, guests could use the arcade or Magic Quest.

Our room was nicely appointed with two beds on the main floor and a bed up on the lobby. The sitting area included a small dining table, outdoor balcony, and several flat screen televisions throughout the room. A small dorm style fridge was also included.

160209 Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky Loft Fireplace Suite (1)

160209 Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky Loft Fireplace Suite (2)

160209 Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky Loft Fireplace Suite (3)

Overall our family loved our stay at Great Wolf Lodge! The facility was well maintained and very clean. We were not bothered constantly by the staff that the kids were forced to wear life vests like at Kalahari, Castaway Bay, and other resorts we have visited.

The only drawback was our oldest son was running his hand down the wall of the halls and a piece of wood was sticking up and sent a piece of wood down under his nail and into his finger. When approaching the staff at the front desk, they seemed unconcerned when requesting directions to an emergency room because of the incident. I would have expected them to consult the on-site medics (assuming they had one) and file a report, but no one seemed all that concerned. After a trip to the ER, we had the issue corrected and were back to enjoy the rest of our stay.

Have you stayed at a Great Wolf Lodge? How was your experience?

TripAdvisor, the Travel Planning Tool

Every family has their own hierarchy, and consequently, everyone should know where they fit in with their family dynamics. For example, in our house, I know what I am good at when it comes to planning our family travels, while there are other aspects that my wife is better at doing. I am great at finding the best deals and using miles and points to reduce our expenditures. While my wife dives deep into the reviews and planning of activities once we get to our destination.

That is why my wife’s favorite website and app are TripAdvisor. Before we book any hotel, we use the TripAdvisor website to dive deep into reviews of how fellow guests experience was at the respective properties. Once we feel comfortable with a property, only then will we book. It is nice having a source to routinely visit to evaluate before staying at a property.

Fast forward to when we are on the road to our destination, assuming 99% of the time we drive, and my wife will consistently pull up the TripAdvisor app to locate places to eat or things to do within the vicinity of our travels.

Take for example an upcoming trip to the Kings Island (Cincinnati, Ohio) region. By using our TripAdvisor app for Cincinnati area hotels (affiliate link) and using our IHG points, we were able to lock in some fantastic deals on the Staybridge Suites CINCINNATI NORTH, OH (full review coming soon).

We have also used TripAdvisor countless times to locate restaurants and activities in various cities, making the planning process all the more easier.

How indispensable have you found TripAdvisor to be with your trip planning?