Even with an incredible four weeks visiting my home state of Indiana, I still find it tough to see all the people I want to see in that amount of time. Weekends go too quickly and Carl has limited time to take off work. Plus, I’m reluctant to have the boys in the car too often. For every big day out we seem to need two days at home to rest and recuperate. Needless to say, time flies all too quickly and the few times we’ve been, I’ve left wishing I could have seen more people.
This time around, though, I decided to approach our plans for this trip more proactively. I’ve really been wanting to see my college roommates and their families, so I sent out some feelers. Within a few weeks, we booked a cabin in Brown County for a long weekend.
We rented a cabin through Hills o’Brown Vacation Rentals. Our cabin was roughly a 20 minute drive from the north entrance to Brown County State Park, on a back road on a wooded plot. It was neat, tidy, and felt very secluded.
While the cabin was certainly big enough for the four kids and seven adults staying, we weren’t really able to take full advantage of the space. Ultimately, the basement didn’t quite have enough privacy to be used as a bedroom for the adults and the room was too big and bright to put our young kids down there. If the kids had been elementary age, instead of toddlers, then they would have camped out downstairs together, while the adults had their own rooms. As it was, the kids roomed in with their parents, which is always a tough arrangement.
The cabin had a spot for a fire, great for s’mores and a large deck where we were able to grill out one evening. The kids (and their dads) enjoyed exploring the tree house. Overall, we found that the cabin was relaxing setting for a vacation.
Brown County State Park
I’ve grown up hearing about Brown County: rolling, wooded hills, beautiful autumn colors, hiking and recreation. Despite knowing its reputation, this was my first visit.
We visited the park three separate mornings and hiked three trails. While this isn’t the park’s fault, it was hot. Like dripping sweat hot. This meant that we ended up choosing shorter trails in order to make things easier on the kids, and the parents carrying them.
While some of the trails we did weren’t terribly inspiring, we really enjoyed our walk around Strahl Lake. There was so much nature to enjoy along the trail. We spotted dragonflies, butterflies, tiny toads hopping across the trail, giant frogs croaking from the lake. The trees were lovely and the relatively level trail made it easy walking for our toddler. Carl and I both enjoyed watching N get excited about his surroundings: laying on his tummy to watch ants working, identifying the sound of a woodpecker in the distance, stomping across wooden bridges. The trails, particularly this one, provided such a compelling environment for a curious little boy.
The big hit of the park was the Nature Center. They had turtles and several snakes on display. N even got to pet a milk snake, although when he said it, it sounded like milk shake. They also had a spot to watch bees at work between two sheets of plexiglass, with a tunnel to the outside. I loved sitting in front of the nature watching window. I rolled G in his pushchair straight up to the window. We saw squirrels, chipmunks, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, a cedar waxwings, cardinals, mourning doves and more. A window like this has officially made my dream house wish list.
On our last day, we had lunch at the Abe Martin Lodge. The service was great and our waitress took great care of what I would consider a ‘high maintenance’ party: multiple highchairs and booster seats, lots of food ending up on the floor, etc. The food was great, especially since I had been craving a breaded pork tenderloin.
To change things up on the hottest day of the week, we drove into Nashville to walk around the shops. Even with little kids, we had fun walking along the streets. There are lots of pedestrian areas off of the main roads and we found little nooks and crannies at every turn.
The shops themselves were interesting and full of local arts and crafts. N had fun in The Thomas Treehouse where he discovered some simple wooden cars and trucks to play with. There were many more intricate pieces of work as well, which made it a fun place to browse. We finished the morning off by having gelato at one of the shops before heading back to the cabin for lunch.
Overall, we found Brown County to be a family-friendly spot with the area offering lots of activities, including hiking, eating and shopping. I always find self-catering accommodation to be a great choice, too. There is a lot of freedom that comes with having a full kitchen and space to spread out. You don’t get that in a bed and breakfast or a hotel room. The only thing I would change would be the heat and humidity. Sadly, that drove us inside for the better part of every afternoon!