Every mom needs a little self-care now and again. My favorite way to jump out of the mundane day-to-day responsibilities of motherhood and marriage is to plan a trip with my girlfriends.
We have made it an annual event to momcation away from the family to find relaxation and let our hair down. This year’s momcation couldn’t have been more important–we lost a dear friend and travel buddy suddenly, and knew we needed to get away to heal. We planned a back-to-nature mom-vacation in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Akron, Ohio. We stayed in the Garden Oasis AirBnB in the historic Highland Square area. Everything we needed to recuperate and center our souls was easily accessible on this trip.
WHERE TO STAY: HIGHLAND SQUARE
THE GARDEN OASIS
Five bedrooms and two and half baths was more than enough space to find rest and relaxation. A cozy, chic setting with Ohio-themed artwork and dedicated rooms, this house is fully loaded from the kitchen to the sunroom. If the inside isn’t enough to center your soul, the backyard garden and hot tub were the perfect place for morning coffee, meditation, post-hike soaks, and margaritas under the stars.
Even better, the National Park is just a short drive away, and the best restaurants and nightlife Highland Square has to offer are a few walking blocks away. The home paired well with our adventures during the day and our adulting needs.
CUYAHOGA VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
With over 22 miles of river and 125 miles of hiking, this valley is a great place to get centered. There are plenty of challenging trails and moderate, kid-friendly trails as well. The Metroparks in the area have ample space to explore and unwind. This National Park brought us so much peace and adventure, which were definitely needed on this momcation.
DAY 1: MUSTARD SEED MARKET | LEDGES TRAIL | LEDGES OVERLOOK
After you check-in and unpack, don’t waste any time: start exploring the trails for a sweet sunset at the ledges overlook. We walked to The Mustard Seed Market for dinner, then hopped in the car. The Ledges trail is a 20 minute drive from the house. Parking is on-site. The trail is an easy to moderate terrain and loops after 1.8 miles. You can catch the sunset on the ledges overlook at the end of the trail.
DAY 2: BOSTON MILL VISITOR CENTER | BRANDYWINE FALLS | BLUE HEN FALLS | STANFORD TRAIL
The visitor center is the best place to park to hit a number of trails in one day. Arrive no later than 10:30 during the summer to guarantee yourself a parking spot. There are Rangers ready to guide you to the paths you need to take to the trails. Be prepared to walk the Towpath Trail and the Stanford Trail from the visitor center before starting your miles on the actual trails.
Brandywine Falls and Blue Hen Falls have steep terrains. Pace yourself, embrace the challenge, and enjoy nature. In between hikes we stopped at the general stop for cold water refills and ice cream (located behind the visitor center).
If you have it in you, take a nap or a soak in the hot tub, then hit a restaurant in Highland Square.
DAY 3: PADDLE THE RIVER BURNING RIVER ADVENTURES
Reservations are required and you pay online before your trip. Paddle the River has three locations and several trips to choose from. We chose the Burning River Adventure for the medium-length trip. We kayaked around 4.5 miles for a little over two hours through private and public areas of the river. The scenery is beautiful, with two small rapids to counter and plenty of wildlife to view. Watch out for tubing parties and be prepared to paddle your way through the traffic they create.
BEST PLACES TO EAT
SOUTHERN COMFORT KITCHEN | 0.3 miles from The Garden Oasis
Comfort food at its finest within walking distance. This is not a restaurant. It is a pop-up food counter inside The Matinee bar. Google directions might be confusing, but look for the Southern Comfort Kitchen flag and logo.
SQUARE SCULLERY | 0.3 miles from The Garden Oasis
The most eclectic menu with plenty of vegan options. This tiny place recommends you reserve a table ahead of time. And it is worth it. With a small indoor seating area and an outdoor patio, the vibrant and chic restaurant is sure to win you over. They do not serve alcohol, but have delicious mocktails to enjoy with your meal.
MUSTARD SEED MARKET | 0.3 miles from The Garden Oasis
Not just a market, but a whole foods restaurant. Take the stairs or elevator to the roof and order something good to eat and a drink or two. This place has lots of options as well as vegan-friendly fare. You can sit outside on the rooftop or inside in the air conditioning. There is even live music Saturday nights for your enjoyment. The grocery store is on the bottom level and has everything you may need to make a quick bit at the house or snacks to pack for your adventure.
BARMACY BAR & GRILL | 0.3 miles from The Garden Oasis
Get your karaoke fix in on Saturday nights, or catch live music throughout the week. This is a hip but chill bar for night caps and people watching.
AKRON MUSEUM OF ART | 2 miles from The Garden Oasis
BLOSSOM MUSIC CENTER | 8 miles from The Garden Oasis
Live music in the middle of a national park ampitheatre!
Even though this wasn’t a family trip, we all are considering heading back to the Garden Oasis and Cuyahoga Valley with the rest of the family. Here are some popular attractions recommend by the Highland Square community:
WATER WORKS FAMILY AQUATIC CENTER | 8 miles from The Garden Oasis
AKRON ZOO | 2 miles from The Garden Oasis
AKRON CHILDREN’S MUSEUM | 2 miles from The Garden Oasis
CUYAHOGA VALLEY SCENIC RAILROAD | 2 miles from The Garden Oasis
- Map your excursions in advance so you have an idea of where you are going.
- Highland Square is a LGBTQ+ friendly community.
- Take a deep breath, relax, and embrace what nature and the Garden Oasis have to offer.