Mrs. FI Designer

Embracing Spontaneity: Family Adventures During the EconoMe Conference in Cincinnati

Family Adventures During EconoMe

by Mrs. FI Designer

Hello, I am Mrs. FI Designer.
Why am I writing about everyday adventures on my husband’s blog? I wanted to share that designing Financial Independence (FI) for us is also about creating an intentional life with adventures both in our backyard and traveling as a family.

Designing a Spontaneous Trip
In March 2023 my husband attended a three-day conference called EconoMe held in Cincinnati, Ohio. The event is dedicated to Financial Independence and includes presentations, workshops, and social activities. About two weeks before the event we decided that the kids and I would join him on the trip. For some families, tagging along is an easy yes, but our kids have food allergies and personalities.

Giving you a little background, my husband (FI Designer) and I are both planners and goal-setters. When we were younger I would train for marathons and he turned hobbies into side gigs. Fast forward to having kids, realizing they were growing up quickly, and life was well… just everyday life. We wanted to find more balance in life and ways to add adventure for our family. About this time a new podcast came on the scene called Ordinary Sherpa that challenged families to find adventure in everyday life. This inspired us to be a little more spontaneous, saying yes, and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone.

At first, we started small and made goals to find adventure in our backyard. Hiking with toddlers is a whole adventure in itself and sometimes includes dress-up clothes. Then we printed a map of our state so we could pin it up on our kitchen wall and handwrite adventure goals on it. The map was an idea we borrowed from the ChooseFI podcast Episode 076, Planned Spontaneity with Mrs. Adventure Rich. When we had idle time around the house, the map on the wall was a reminder that we could just pack lunch and go explore a new playground or nature center nearby.

Planning for Cincinnati
I approached planning for Cincinnati with the lessons learned from our small adventures, to look for local gems, including the kids in the planning, and push ourselves outside our comfort zone. I researched what the kids could do around Cincinnati and came up with the following list of options.

  • Loveland Castle was a real castle and extremely kid-friendly. Little ones could run around and explore.
  • Cincinnati Nature Center with child playscape.
  • Highfield Discovery Garden was a unique musical garden with instruments and a discovery tree for kids to play in. Great place for imaginary play.
  • Church indoor playground.
  • Library with indoor playroom or book store.
  • Smale Riverfront Park with walking paths and a rock wall, because our youngest wants to climb a mountain.
  • Cincinnati Museum Center with dinosaur fossils, science, history, and legos. A friend even offered us their season pass for the day.

We watched YouTube videos for each option and the kids chose their top three. It just so happened that they both picked all outside activities. The weather in Cincinnati was unpredictable in March so having indoor backups such as a library or church with indoor playrooms was a must for this trip.

Loveland Castle
Loveland Castle Museum was only about 20 minutes outside Cincinnati. The kids were so excited when we arrived on the first full day of our trip. The knight, Sir Dave, greeted us at the gate and said the kids were welcome to explore. He really meant it and kept telling me information as my kids ran down the path. It was not crowded when we arrived early in the day. Whenever possible we try to arrive at a destination when it opens because it is usually less crowded.

Loveland Castle Museum
Loveland Castle Museum in Loveland, Ohio

I had expected only to spend a couple of hours at the castle, but at lunchtime, the kids were begging to stay longer. We were able to stay because I had packed our lunches. Packing lunches is one of the ways our family handles adventures and I will touch back on this later. During lunch at the castle, my son noticed that several new guests arrived, took photos, and left. He immediately took on the role of honorary tour guide. He would try to get the other kids to discover, explore, and even find the real meteorite that was in the castle.

We learned that the castle was built by a Sunday school teacher and Boy Scout leader, Harry Delos, for his “knights” who were trying to spread the Ten Commandments to the world in the 1920s. But the young boys questioned how they could be real “knights” without a castle. Harry just so happened to be an architect who was knowledgeable in medieval castles from his service in World War I.

With the help of his original boys, who became known as the Knights of the Golden Trail, they hand-built the castle starting in 1929 from stones sourced from the adjacent Little Miami River. The castle took over 50 years to build and Sir Harry eventually moved in. We learned that not even Elvis could buy this castle, even when he tried because some things are NOT for sale. The current generation of Knights of the Golden Trail showed so much kindness and granted experiences so many adults would be nervous to let my children try. My daughter was able to split wood for the first time.

We had planned on doing two outings on Saturday but we stayed at the castle for almost four hours. This was possible because we packed food. Like I mentioned earlier our kids have several food allergies, and eating out is unpredictable. Packing our food has become such a blessing because it allows us to be flexible. I had packed enough food for the whole day, accounting for two meals and several snacks. If you want to hear more about how we choose lodging and meal planning for trips let us know in the comments below and we would be happy to share more details.

More Unexpected Adventure Awaits
On our way back to Cincinnati to pick up my husband at the EconoMe conference we drove by a “brown sign” for President Taft’s childhood home. We became even more aware of “brown signs” from the Ordinary Sherpa podcast Episode 041. Brown signs are official roadside signs that mark tourist attractions, historic sites, or recreation areas. We have become so aware of these signs that our kids often point them out while we drive.

Later that night we learned that President Tafts’s home is a national historic site with a Junior Ranger Program. The park opened at 8:30 am so it was perfect timing right after we dropped my husband off again at the conference the next morning.

Junior Rangers and William Taft’s Home
At the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, we learned about his childhood home and parents. It was challenging to make a self-guided tour engaging for two young kids until we found the Junior Ranger books. These books make walking through a museum like a scavenger hunt. It was amazing to see the connections the children made while they looked for answers.

If you have not tried a Junior Ranger Program before I recommend always checking with the rangers to see if they are available. The badges are fun to collect, but they really help the kids enjoy and respect the national parks and historic sites. After completing the age-appropriate activities within the books, the children are sworn in by the park rangers.

National Park Passports
Another fun activity to do at national parks is to collect passport stamps. The Passport to your National Parks is a passport book that you can use to collect inked stamps at almost every national park. We didn’t fully understand the passports when we began collecting stamps. Here is how we use them.

  • Step 1 – Buy a passport book online or at a national park gift shop. We have one book for each member of our family.
  • Step 2 – Bring the passport book with you when you go to a national park.
  • Step 3 – Find the table of free stamps and ink pads at the visitor center (usually located inside the gift shop).
  • Step 4 – Stamp your passport book on an empty page for the appropriate geographic region of the park.

The stamps are a fun way to keep track of the parks you visit because each stamp shows the date of your visit.

As an extra, you can purchase collectible adhesive stamps to stick in your books. To me, the collectible stamps are not as fun as the ink stamps because they don’t show the date you visited the park like the ink stamps do. Plus the ink stamps are free!

Because we hadn’t planned on visiting a national park in Cincinnati we didn’t have our passport books with us. When that happens we stamp a piece of white paper and glue it into our passport books when we get home. Another secret that rangers have told us about is that you can mail a national park visitor center a self-addressed stamped envelope with a letter requesting a stamp saying that you would like a stamp because you visited but did not have your passport book with you. We have even heard that you can request a specific date for the stamp, but have not attempted this yet.

Our Last Adventure of the Day
With a couple hours left on our last day in Cincinnati, and the six-hour drive home, a park to run off energy was just what we needed. The Smale Riverfront Park downtown sounded amazing but there were several pain points.

  • The parking garage made our car harder to access for lunch or snacks.
  • The riverfront was windy and cold on that day.

The hotel recommended Summit Park in Blue Ash. It was an amazing park, so much to climb and slide on. Then with a short walk, there was a second playground nature space with climbing, swings, and zip lines. Even though the weather was in the low 30s that day the park was full of kids.

Summit Park in Blue Ash, Ohio
Summit Park in Blue Ash, Ohio

Spreading FI at the Park
At Summit Park my son was playing with a little boy. I introduced myself to his mother and it turned out she grew up in Italy. Somewhere in the conversation, she said that the part of Italy she grew up in was a pure cash society and that kids in the USA with credit cards do not know the value of a dollar.

I told her a little about the free PreK-12 Financial Literacy Curriculum by the ChooseFI Foundation. The mother also said she wished she could find like-minded parents teaching kids about how money can work for them. I told her she might find those types of people through one of the ChooseFI Local Groups on Facebook. Spreading FI on the playground was a great way to end the trip.

Call to Action
Please don’t stop here. Think about the following recommendations to improve your family adventures and if you have any questions about the topics I discussed in this post please comment below.

  • Push beyond your comfort zone and say yes when your husband offers to let you tag along on a business trip.
  • Think of the activities your kids enjoy doing in your hometown and seek similar activities out when you travel. With our young kids playgrounds, nature centers, and libraries are always on our list.
  • Pack lunches and snacks to improve your experience if plans change, and believe me, they usually do.
  • For more inspiration on everyday adventures see the Ordinary Sherpa podcast.

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