Ohio State Parks You Won’t Want to Miss Out On

OhioStateParks_Old Man's Cave-Hocking Hills Region-BlogGraphic

We wanted to focus a bit of extra attention on Ohio parks and our fantastic Ohio Pocket Ranger® app. The app provides updates on all things to do with Ohio parks—from upcoming events to news about various parks, it’s easy to find any sort of park-related information you need. Find out which parks have tennis courts or check the weather at your favorite park before packing up the car. No matter how you use it, the app will become an essential part of your outdoor activity planning! Below are just five parks in the state that you’ll want to put on your itinerary for the upcoming year.

Geneva State Park

A grassy field with benches overlooking a lake.

Geneva State Park [Image: parks.ohiodnr.gov/geneva]

Bordering Lake Erie’s northeastern shoreline, Geneva State Park is a picturesque park that’s great for a relaxing weekend away from the hustle and bustle of the city. From the comfortable lodge and conference center, you’ll be able to see gorgeous views of the sparkling lake. If you’d rather rough it and take in the great outdoors, there are plenty of camping opportunities as well as hiking, hunting, and fishing. Take a dip in the calming Lake Erie waters, soak up the sun at the beach, or try your hand at archery. Winter sports enthusiasts will be happy to hear that the park is open year round with tons of cross-country skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling to enjoy as well.

Mohican State Park

A waterfall coming over a save where there are carvings in rocks.

Mohican State Park [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/thart2009]

The beauty and distinctness of Mohican State Park has been shaped by the Wisconsinan, the last glacier to enter Ohio more than 12,000 years ago. Diverse in plant and animal life, Mohican State Park is home to raccoons, skunks, red foxes, American toads, gray tree frogs, wild turkeys, and much more. Bikers, hikers, and runners will love the winding trails to be found here—especially the acclaimed 24.5-mile loop. The Mohican River yields an abundance of smallmouth bass and has plenty of opportunities for canoeing. You’re not going to want to leave, and luckily you don’t have to! There are a multitude of camping options that are just begging to be taken advantage of. 

Hueston Woods State Park

A sailboat on a lake with trees surrounding it at an Ohio State Park.

Hueston Woods State Park [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/bontempscharly]

Whether you’re looking for a great place to kick back and relax or an exciting outdoor adventure, Hueston Woods State Park is great for either. The Hueston Woods State Nature Preserve is a gorgeous preserved old-growth forest that beckons visitors to explore its many acres. Miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails wind through the park. Visitors can unwind with a fun game of mini golf, horseshoes, or frisbee golf. A paintball field and target range also entice many visitors into getting a bit adventurous and trying something completely new. The park is stocked with fascinating fossilized remains of ancient marine animals, bringing people worldwide to this mesmerizing park.

Maumee Bay State Park

A picture of park near Erie Lake with a pond, trees, green grass, and people walking along a trail; Maumee Bay State Park--part of Ohio State Parks

Maumee Bay State Park [Image: www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsmidwest]

Chock full of natural wonders, Maumee Bay State Park mirrors the unrivaled charm of Ohio and Lake Erie. Its wetland environments are brimming with diverse wildlife species, and there have been over 300 different bird species spotted throughout the park. The two beaches at the park are great for swimmers of any age to splash around at. Anglers will enjoy some of the best fishing available in the Midwest, and boaters can just cruise along the crystalline lake. Visitors are encouraged to extend their stay by camping for a few days at the park, which can be done at any time of year.

Shawnee State Park

A photo of the tree leaves changing color around a lake at Shawnee State Park--part of Ohio State Parks.

Shawnee State Park [Image: parks.ohiodnr.gov/shawnee]

Nestled among the expansive Shawnee State Forest, this picture perfect Ohio state park is one of the most astounding areas throughout the state. There are plenty of activities for water enthusiasts and land lovers alike. Explore the Roosevelt and Turkey Creek Lakes via pedal boat, kayak or canoe then stop off at one of the beaches for a refreshing swim. If you’re looking for a more laid-back afternoon, shuffleboard and tennis courts can be found at the lodge. Traverse through the park on any of its six hiking trails, or challenge yourself on the 60-mile Shawnee backpack trail instead. No matter what you do, keep an eye out for wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, raccoons, various songbirds, and elusive bobcats and black bears. Come visit “Ohio’s Little Smokies,” which is the endearing nickname given to the hilly area that peeks out over the Ohio River, and see for yourself why people keep coming back!

Spring is right around the corner, and now is the perfect time to start planning your warm weather adventures. This list is just a taste of the great things to experience in Ohio. Check out the Ohio State Parks Pocket Ranger® app today so you can get started!

Spring Flowers

Flowers blooming is an early sign of warmer weather. Here is a list of spring flowers to look out for during your state park adventure!

Pansy

Blue Pansy flower in a garden with soil

Image: www.deviantart.com

Pansy flowers grow in early spring and last until fall. These flowers need cool weather to grow to their normal size of 10 inches high and 12 inches wide. They also need sun, part shade and moist soil. Pansy flowers grow in many bright colors and sometimes they are even two-toned!

Tulip

Colorful tulip spring flowers in bunches

Image: www.fanpop.com

Tulip flowers are perennials, and they come in many different colors and sizes. In the beginning of spring, they grow between 6 to 18 inches tall. Spot these flowers in a state park while wildflower viewing!

Hibiscus

Bright Pink Hibiscus flower with green leaves

Image: topiarygarden.info

These beautiful, exotic flowers have large leaves and can be in the form of a tree or shrub. Some species of this plant are used for medicinal purposes. They can be edible, often used in herbal teas or food, but viewing them may be more enjoyable than consuming them. Hibiscus flowers come in red, pink, white, purple and yellow.

Bleeding Heart

Pink bleeding heart spring flowers on its stem with green leaves

Image: wwno.org

This unique flower is a pink-rose color and sometimes come in white. The leaves are sometimes a blue-green color and the flower hangs off the stem. This flower grows between 2 to 2 ½ inches and they also need space to grow. The bleeding heart flower is considered to be one of the most romantic flowers!

Basket of Gold

Basket of gold flowers in a bunch

Image: www.lifeseedcompany.com

These flowers really own up to their name! Their bright yellow color is sure to brighten up any spring garden. These flowers need a lot of sunshine to grow up to 6 to 12 inches tall. They grow best in the mountains and rock gardens.

Forget-Me-Not

The Forget-Me-Not flowers on a branch

Image: outlandishobservations.blogspot.com

The Forget-Me-Not flower is a tiny, pretty flower that is a light blue color that spreads over green leaves. They grow best in partly shaded areas, and grow beautifully in damp soil. According to an old legend, these flowers got their name from a knight who threw a bunch of them to his love and yelled, “Forget me not!” Unfortunately, legend says he then fell into a river and drowned because of his heavy armor.

Candytuft

White Candytuft flowers in a bunch with green leaves

Image: www.folksbutterflyfarm.com

These flowers come in white, pink or lavender. They’re flat on top and almost resemble umbrellas! Candytufts grow best in areas with plenty of sun and can grow up to 6 to 12 inches tall.

While you are planning spring activities for your entire family, don’t forget to use your state’s Pocket Ranger® app to make your day run smoothly.

 Related articles

April State Park Events to Keep You Active

Don’t let April showers keep you indoors! Here are few springtime events that are sure to get you outside.

Massachusetts

View Boston from the watchtower at Blue Hills [Image:  buoutingclub.com]

View the city of Boston from the watchtower at Blue Hills Reservation. [Image: buoutingclub.com]

Blue Hills Reservation
Southeaster Massachusetts Adult Walking Club Hikes – April 12, 18 & 26
Rockin’ In The Park – April 26, 2015

What better way to enjoy springtime than with a walk in the woods? This April join the Southeastern Massachusetts Adult Walking Club at Blue Hills Reservation for three separate day hikes on April 12, 18 and 26. The club is open to people of 16 years of age and older, and there is no fee to join. We especially like that these hikes all fall under 4 miles, making them the perfect way to escape to the forest for an afternoon. The hikes at Blue Hills are moderate, somewhat hilly, and after so much rain, we’re guessing a bit muddy. Be sure to wear proper footwear!

Blue Hills Reservation is just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, but its 7,000 acres provide a green oasis for city- and surban-dwellers alike. From the Science Center to the Blue Hill Observatory to the Trailside Museum, Blue Hills is the perfect place for families. On April 26th, take the family to Rockin’ In The Park where geologist Les Tyrala will share secrets about local stone on this hike over rocky terrain. With the new Pocket Ranger® Massachusetts State Parks app, record your tracks on the geology hike, so you can share them with family and friends via social media or email!

Wyoming

Don't forget to take a tour and learn more about the prison's famous criminals! This is one of our April State Park Events [Image:  wondersofwyoming.com]

Don’t forget to take a tour and learn more about the prison’s famous criminals! [Image: wondersofwyoming.com]

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site
Spring Exploration – April 25, 2015

As part of National Environment Education Week, take the kids to Spring Exploration, a free event at Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site. Kids will observe, explore and learn more about how animals’ behaviors change in springtime. In addition to this event, take the time to explore this unique historic site. Built in 1869, the Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site is a fascinating site for adults and kids to explore. Listed on National Register of Historic Places, the prison once held many criminals, including notorious outlaw “Butch Cassidy.” Now a museum, visitors can see photographs of convicts, informational displays about life at the prison, and even walk into the strap iron cells where outlaws were once housed. Spend the day touring the prison as well as the visitor center and ranch.

Ohio

Banner for Mohican Wildlife Weekend in April [Image: www.mohicanwildlifeweekend.com]

Image: www.mohicanwildlifeweekend.com

Malabar Farm Historic Landmark
Mohican Wildlife Weekend – April 24 – 26, 2015 

Malabar Farm Historic Landmark is gearing up for a celebratory weekend full of outdoor activities for the whole family. The theme for this year’s Mohican Wildlife Weekend is “Face Your Wildest Fears,” with all activities focused on wildlife, nature, birds, and the history of the Mohican area. Register for the 3rd Annual Malabar Farm Udder Nonsense 5k, a family-friendly, pet-friendly, non-competitive and cow-themed 5k where you can choose to walk, run or waddle across the scenic grounds of the farm. On Saturday night, get your dancing shoes on for the Wildlife Barn Dance complete with live music and square dancing. Close your night with the April Night Haunt where you’ll explore the normal to the paranormal, learning about murders, cemeteries and haunted houses. Use the new Pocket Ranger® Official Ohio State Parks & Outdoors Guide app during the hike to mark waypoints so you can return to them the next day! The night haunt ends with hot dogs and s’mores around a campfire, which we think is just perfect.

Tennessee

Look for phlox and trillium on your wildflower pilgrimages. [Image: images.nationalgeographic.com]

Look for phlox and trillium on your wildflower pilgrimages. [Image: images.nationalgeographic.com]

Frozen Head State Park
47th Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage –April 11 – 12, 2015

Fall Creek Falls State Park
34th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage – April 11 – 12, 2015

Spring has sprung in Tennessee! Bursting with wildflower events, we couldn’t choose just one to spotlight. Since 1968, people have been visiting Frozen Head State Park to see the mountain wildflowers bloom in springtime. With hundreds of plant species, the park’s Annual Wildflower Pilgrimage will guide visitors through the forests to find the showiest displays of wildflowers.

Or head to Fall Creek Falls State Park for their 34th Annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. The park is hosting a variety of hikes, workshops and driving tours for visitors. Whichever wildflower pilgrimage you take, consider spending the night at the parks so you can explore all weekend long. Make overnight reservations quickly and easily by using the Pocket Ranger® Official Guide for Tennessee State Parks.

Out & about at the parks this April? Share you adventures with us on Instagram

Spring in Virginia Beach!

Now that we explored Virginia Beach’s natural areas, let’s enjoy its beach destinations, prefect for a spring day full of water and land sports! “Live the Life,” as you roam through Virginia Beach’s diverse beach landscapes, local restaurants, and its vibrant downtown area.

Girls enjoying the Resor Beach boardwalk.

Courtesy VA Beach Tourism

 

Explore the beaches!

Virginia Beach promises calm waters with distinct scenic views. Some to keep in mind include Resort Beach, Sandbridge Beach, and Chesapeake Bay Beach.

Sometimes we just want to relax and stroll down an endless pier! Resort Beach features a 3-mile boardwalk, great for jogging and biking. The boardwalk is lined with restaurants, hotels, beach playgrounds, souvenirs shops and plenty of other attractions. There’s Grommet Island and the King Neptune statue, a 34-foot-tall, cast bronze god of the mythical sea. You can bike, boat, kayak, parasail or paddle board in Resort Beach. Restaurants around here range from fine dining to crab and oyster shacks, or catch your own lunch at a nearby fishing pier!

And when you’re off biking, me sure to carry the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App. Its advanced GPS Maps allows you to access trail data, record tracks from hikes, runs, or bike rides, and view elapsed time and distance traveled.

Man walking near the Chesapeake Bay Beach shore.

Can we fly out here? Chesapeake Bay [Image: VA Beach Tourism]

If exploration and seclusion is more your thing, Sandbridge Beach is the place! Along with the island vibes and serene views, you’ll have a chance to explore the outdoors, and discover trails, marshes, and the open waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park whether on bike or by foot. There’s also surfing lessons available from local outfitters. And you don’t necessarily have to leave comfort out of the equation. Enjoy amazing ocean views from available hotels, rental homes or condos.

The scenic Chesapeake Bay Beach is the ideal location for sunsets and sunrises. It also features gentle waves perfect for swimming and splashing, especially for the little ones learning how to swim. Here visitors can enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, sand castle building, volleyball and more! It’s truly a romantic escape with multiple dockside seafood restaurants, offering incredible sunset views over the Lynnhaven Inlet. And for the historian in you, visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse to learn a little more about Virginia.

We want wildlife and adventure!

Image: www.zooborns.com

Image: www.zooborns.com

While you’re exploring Chesapeake Bay be sure to visit the bottlenose dolphins that live in estuaries year-round. From May to October visitors can get close to playful marine mammals during a guided dolphin-watch on kayak! Guides will take viewers to see the dolphin’s favorite areas. Document the experience through photos as dolphins frolic between feeding grounds. And use the Virginia Pocket Ranger® App as your guide when you’re off exploring those nature spots beyond the beach. With the app you can mark and record the coordinates of plant life, animal species, or landscape views with the photo waypoint feature.

You’ll also find a thrilling adventure while zip-lining through trees in the brand new Adventure Park at the Virginia Aquarium. Virginia Beach has five campgrounds! Pitch a tent in one of Virginia Beach’s five campgrounds, 1,800 campsites, or stay in one of their 70 rustic cabins, that include restrooms, showers, guest laundry, bicycles, playgrounds, pools and boat ramps.

Savor the local cuisine

Family crab picking in Sandbridge Beach

Image: VA Beach Tourism

Virginia Beach has some of the freshest coastal cuisine. From oysters to crab cakes to rockfish, there’s plenty of local fish to try at Virginia Beach restaurants. For drinks, head to anyone of the five artisan breweries for a fresh pint! If you want to learn more about oysters, there are oyster-farming boat tours on the Lynnhaven River where you can taste fresh harvested bivalves. Also, be on the look out for farmer’s markets and roadside stands, selling fresh, sustainable and local produce. Though this area is know for its strawberries, thanks to the annual Strawberry Festival, it also grows blackberries, cantaloupe, kale, blueberries, among other produce.

See what its like to live on a sustainable farm. New Earth Farm offers educational programs from how to sheer sheep to how to make cheese, kombucha, noodles and other dishes. They also offer cooking classes taught by top chefs at the farm’s Food Lab. Kids as young as 10-years old can sign up and start making meals from scratch, as well as harvesting eggs, washing and chopping produce and putting it all together to make a dreamy farm feast.

Stay tuned for Spring events at Virginia Beach from March to May, inluding PANorama Caribbean Music Festival, Festival of the Arts, Strawberry Festival, and others here!

To explore more of Virginia Beach don’t forget to download our free Virginia Pocket Ranger® App!

Five Species that Hibernate

Wintertime sends a lot of us hunkering down in our homes, cuddling under blankets and soaking in the warmth until spring comes back around. Many breathe sighs of relief as the weather starts to warm up and you feel more adventurous about getting outside and being active. Although the aversion to leave your bed feels like hibernation, we’re all amateurs compared to the animal pros. The list below is just five hibernating animals out of a very long list of species that slip into an intensive sleep-like state during the cold winter months.

Bees and Wasps

Two clusters of bees keeping warm in winter.

Bees in a winter cluster. [Image: scientificbeekeeping.com/winter-colony-losses]

Honeybees and wasps are fascinating little creatures that float around and send us running from their stingers. Whether you’re afraid of them or are fascinated by them, they’re a part of the warm weather that we’ve all come to expect. With most bee species, the queen ends up being the only survivor from winter and emerges in the spring to recreate a colony. However, honeybees are active throughout the winter despite a lack of flowers. Once the temperature hits around 57°F, honeybees live exclusively within their hives in a winter cluster. Drones are forced from the hive and worker bees form this cluster around the queen where they feed off stored honey for energy and shiver by vibrating their flight muscles to keep warm. As the temperature rises and falls, the tightness of the group changes. When bees on the outer layer of the cluster get cold, they push their way into the middle and switch spots. Bees have been to known to consume up to 30 pounds of honey in just one season and the middle of the cluster can reach into the low 90s! Once it gets warmer, bees will move around the hive to nearby honey reserves and will even leave the hive to get rid of body waste.

Bears

A black bear hibernate in a den.

A black bear hibernating in its den. [Image: www.bear.org/website/bear-pages/black-bear/hibernation.html]

When most people think of hibernation, they automatically think of bears even though there has been a significant amount of disagreement on whether they technically hibernate or not. The type of hibernation that bears go into (called a torpor) is rather light comparatively and they can be easy awoken, so make sure you tiptoe past those bear dens! During their torpor, bears are able to go over 100 days without eating, drinking, or passing waste with no negative effects. Their bodies can restore muscle and organ tissue due to the urea from their urine that builds new proteins during tissue breakdown. Female bears are also able to give birth to and nurse their cubs during torpor.

Ground Squirrels

Two squirrels curled up together and sleeping.

Squirrels hibernating. [Image: neuroblog.stanford.edu]

Ground squirrels spend most of the year underground hibernating in cozy little dens where there are different rooms for food storage, sleep, and eliminating waste. Even while they aren’t hibernating, they enter a torpor sleep a few days at a time anyway. While they hibernate, the ground squirrel’s body basically goes into a freeze where their blood goes lower than below freezing and their heartbeats slow down. Their blood remains liquidized throughout this process due to supercooling. Hibernating ground squirrels bring their body temperatures to the lowest points ever recorded in a mammal!

Bats

A bunch of bats hibernating in a dark cave.

Bats hibernating in a cave. [Image: www.livescience.com/11705-theory-mammals-fungus-explains-bat-plague.html]

Bats have an interesting hibernation technique where they almost appear to be dead. Their heart rates drop from 400 beats per minute to 25 or even 10 beats per minute (depending on the species), and their metabolism and breathing slows down as well. Some bats only take one breath per hour during hibernation periods! Bats can rewarm their bodies even as its temperature approaches freezing. Hibernation is just one of the feats that bats do that has many people impressed by them.

Common Poorwills

A common poorwill (bird) sleeping on some sticks.

A common poorwill hibernating. [Image: www.nhm.org/nature/taxonomy/term/198]

Common poorwills are especially interesting because they’re the only bird species that goes into an extended torpor-like hibernation. These birds slow their metabolic and heart rates when the weather is very cold, very hot, or there is a food shortage. They can even hibernate while incubating eggs if needed.

As the weather gets warmer and we feel more inclined to stretch our legs, we’ll inevitably start seeing more of these sleepy critters doing the same. Use our Pocket Ranger® mobile apps to find a park near you and enjoy the onset of spring with some of the local wildlife.

Explore National Parks with the Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide

National Parks Passport app opening page

Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide [Image: www.pocketranger.com/apps/national-parks]

Whether you’re planning a trip across the country or looking to explore your local environment a bit more, a detour to a National Park site along the way should be a crucial part of your planning process. The release of our Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide makes planning a whole lot easier and more fun than ever before! Our National Park Passport Guide will be available tomorrow (Saturday, March 21) on the App Store, Google Play, and through our PRX site!

National Parks are brimming with cultural, historical, and natural significance like you won’t find anywhere else. From a tropical getaway in Hawaii to a more obscure trip east of the Mississippi, our app provides you with all the information you want and so much more. We’re preparing beginners for their first trips to these sites and supplying the seasoned pros with the types of updates and information they’ve been waiting for.

A picture of Oregon's Crater Lake National Park on the National Park Passport app screen.

Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide [Image: www.pocketranger.com/apps/national-parks]

With GPS mapping technology utilized in the app, it’s easy to create the perfect trip. Start off by searching for a specific park, looking up national sites that are near you, or checking out what areas have your favorite outdoor activities available. Once you’ve found the best spot, you can map your route by road, satellite, or hybrid and terrain. Don’t forget to share your current position, waypoints, and tracks on social media along the way, too! Navigation is easy with longitude/latitude positioning and the built-in compass, and you can even record, save, and recall your footfalls. Even if you’re not quite sure of where you want to go, the app has a handy list of the Top Ten National Parks (including the acclaimed Acadia National Park!) for you to browse through at your convenience.

The Explore section of the National Park Passport app  where you can search by Nearest Me, By State, By Activity, By Zip Code, or choose to Search by Park Name.

Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide [Image: www.pocketranger.com/apps/national-parks]

The app makes it possible to stay up-to-date on the comings and goings of National Parks, too. Check the weather before heading out, find directions, browse through various park maps, and look up different park events all by simply tapping your finger. You can even set it up so your device receives alerts from your favorite parks. Contact information is available for each park site as well as fascinating history and park overviews.

Screenshot of the Acadia National Park home screen.

Pocket Ranger® National Park Passport Guide [Image: www.pocketranger.com/apps/national-parks]

We’ve supplied you with plenty of winter escape suggestions already, but the warm weather is finally starting to peek its head out from under the snow, making now the perfect time to starting planning a new venture. Whether you want to learn a bit about the history of a certain area, explore on land and water, or just kick back and relax, the National Park Passport Guide will become your new best friend. Once you embark on your travels, make sure you check out our photos from other visitors and snap some pictures of your own to share with us on social media—even though our Instagram picture contest has ended, we’d still love to live vicariously! Happy travels!

Dreaming of an Outdoor Wedding? 10 Tips You Need to Know!

The words "Marry Me" in daisies [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

For those having outdoor weddings this year, the time to start planning is now! We’ve spoken with Carolyn Elliott and Kaela Gray, co-owners of Spring Hill Designs who have handled their fair share of outdoor weddings in the often turbulent weather of New England. Here are these outdoor wedding gurus’ top 10 tips that are sure to make your big day a hit and not a shrug.

1. Think seasonal.

When it comes to floral arrangements and bouquets, consider what type of flowers are growing at the time of your wedding. “While a florist may be able to find a flower that’s well past its local growing season, these out-of-season flowers may spend months in a cooler before they end up in your bouquet or centerpiece,” Elliott warns. For the freshest, best-looking flowers, talk to your local florist about the kinds of flowers that are in season at the time of your wedding. We also like the idea of incorporating wildflowers into your bouquet and centerpieces. (Be sure to check with the venue or state park before collecting wildflowers! There may be endangered species of wildflower in the area that are protected.)

Arbors are perfect for outdoor weddings [www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Arbors are perfect for outdoor weddings. [www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

2. Think local.

Local growers, local florists, local flowers, local food: Gray can’t stress local enough! Local growers, farmers and vendors can often help keep your wedding costs down. To get you the best deals, these vendors will know who to talk to and chances are they know the venue, which makes a big difference in keeping your plans perfectly aligned. Likewise, if you decide to hold your wedding at a state park near you, introduce yourself to the staff and ask for planning tips. Most likely, they’ve have seen it all and can impart valuable advice on the do’s and don’ts for that particular space.

3. Embrace the elements.

The views, the smells, and the landscape all combine to create the unique atmosphere that will set your wedding apart. Gray says to keep those sights, sounds and smells in mind when planning your big day. For example, if you envision your nuptials on a hill overlooking a lake, it could be windy that day. Gray’s advice? “Don’t fight it,” she says, “Keep flowers, hair, and your veil whimsical and a little wild, and you’ll find you’re much happier than if you had tried keeping things very formal.”

Pansies along a tractor for a wedding [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

4. Leave the heels in the car.

Fact: Stilettos will sink into the grass and are not meant to be worn on woodsy paths. Instead, rock the day with a pair of flats, sandals or even your trusty hiking boots.

5. It’s all about the fabric.

Choose the best fabrics for the season. If you’re getting married in the dead heat of summer, go with light, airy fabrics. Since you’ll be outdoors for most of the day and probably into the night, consider wearing (or at least, bringing) layers. A nice scarf or light jacket can be a godsend when the sun goes down and you’re out under the stars. And don’t forget about the guys! Men should also carefully consider the fabrics of their formal wear. As Elliott puts it, “We see too many couples physically melting in the summer sun dressed in heavy gowns and tuxes.” Choose wisely!

A wedding in Northeast Kingdom, Vermont [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com

6. Less is more.

No matter the season, when thinking about make-up, less is more. Under the sun, make-up melts, and on humid or rainy days, it runs. When it’s cold out, make-up can over-dry your skin and make it appear flaky. Before applying make-up, make sure to moisturize your skin and apply sunscreen. Consider using long-lasting make-up products, such as waterproof mascara and lip stain.

7. Remember your guests.

While all the attention will be on you, don’t forget your guests. Keep them comfortable during the outdoor ceremony and reception by supplying seasonally appropriate accoutrements. For spring or summer weddings, think fun straw hats, parasols, sunglasses, and herbal bug sprays. For fall and winter weddings, leave out hand-warmers, and consider draping blankets or scarves over the backs of chairs. This will add visual interest to your seating arrangement, and also provide needed warmth for your guests.

Make sure there's an indoor or tented space available in case of inclement weather. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Make sure there’s an indoor or tented space available in case of bad weather. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

8. Hydrate!

During a summer wedding, keep your guests cool during the service and cocktail hour by having a self-serve drink station. Have pitchers of cucumber water, iced tea, and lemonade available. Or keep your guests warm during those early spring, late fall, and winter weddings with hot beverages, like hot chocolate, coffee and tea.

9. No one likes runny cake.

Just like what you wear, the food you serve at an outdoor reception should be seasonally appropriate. For summer weddings, Elliott suggests avoiding foods that melt, and choosing cheeses and cake frostings wisely. If you’re having the big day catered, make sure your caterer knows beforehand about your outdoor wedding plans. This will help you avoid having a puddle for a wedding feast.

Stuck indoors? Bring nature indoors with decorative arrangements [Image:  www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

Rained out? Bring nature inside with decorative floral arrangements. [Image: www.springhilldesignsvt.com]

10. Have a backup plan.

Most importantly, have a backup plan! Holding your wedding outdoors means you are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so your contingency plan should include a sheltered space where you can carry out the nuptials and/or reception. When looking for a wedding venue, try to find one that also offers a large tent or sheltered picnic area or an indoor space, such as a barn or hall.

Have you said “Yes” and are now on the hunt for wedding venues? Stay tuned for an upcoming Pocket Ranger® post about great outdoor wedding venues at state parks across the country!