Meet The Local Tourists: Tonya Prater, Travel Inspired Living

Tonya Prater's site, Travel Inspired Living, is a bonanza of budget travel tips and unique destinations. Check out why she loves her home of Mansfield, Ohio, when she's not out and about exploring.

Meet The Local Tourists is a series that introduces you to fantastic travel sites, the people behind them, and the places they call home.

Tonya Prater is a blogger I’ve known of and respected for quite some time. Her site is a bonanza of budget travel tips and unique destinations. She’s also got a whole series teaching travelers about Cooking in a Hotel Room. As someone who also travels on a budget and gets tired of eating out all the time while on the road, her recipes, tips, and product recommendations help save my bacon.

When she’s not on the road, Tonya loves her hometown of Mansfield. Learn more about Tonya and this town that’s midway between Columbus and Cleveland.

Speaking of Cleveland, check out Secret Cleveland, co-authored by Tonya and Dep Thompson. 

Hi Tonya! Tell us more about your site, Travel Inspired Living.

I believe everyone can and should travel. My goal at is to share travel inspiration to the budget-minded while sharing destinations and attractions that are splurge worthy for special occasions.

How did you get started?

I started blogging when my family lost our home in the recession and moved into a 31-foot motorhome. It was a difficult time but with three teenagers and a hard working husband, I knew I could whine about the hardship we were experiencing or I could make the best of it. I opted for the latter and set off in search of inexpensive and free adventures wherever we traveled to.

While I started my blog to keep in touch with family and friends at home, I quickly shifted gears to share the fun outings we were having as a homeschool family. That was ten years ago. We no longer live in an RV and my kids are now grown but I’ve not lost my sense of adventure. In February, 2019, my husband and I are embarking on a 30-day van camping trip.

A visitor is in Mansfield, Ohio, for one day – where should they go?

There are many reasons to visit Mansfield, but my favorite thing to share about my hometown is that the Shawshank Redemption was filmed here. My husband was even an extra in the movie. He played one of the prisoners entering the prison in the opening scene. You can’t distinguish which prisoner is him, but we know he’s there which may be why the movie is our favorite of all time.

Fans of the movie will enjoy driving along the Shawshank Trail which leads visitors to the filming sites in the area, starting with the imposing and eerie Ohio State Reformatory which served as Shawshank Prison in the blockbuster film. 2019 is a big year for Mansfield as we gear up to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie with many special events.

The Big House at Malabar Farm State Park; photo credit Tonya Prater
The Big House at Malabar Farm State Park; photo credit Tonya Prater

What can you find at home that you can’t find anywhere else?

In addition to touring the prison and exploring the Shawshank Trail, I recommend that visitors grab a pizza from Leaning Tower of Pizza, the 2nd oldest pizza place in the state of Ohio and head to one of our area parks to wander and watch the sun as it sets in warm weather. If you continue following the Shawshank Trail, you’ll make your way to my favorite park in the area, Malabar Farm State Park.

Take time to tour the Big House at Malabar Farm where film icons Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart where married in 1957 and where owner, Louis Bromfield penned several novels or take a wagon ride during the warm season to learn about the sustainable farming practices that Bromfield practiced long before it was cool. There are also several hiking trails on the property. The Butternut Trail leads adventurous hikers along a short one mile wooded path to a small cave that you can enter and walk, squeeze, and climb through.

Mt. Jeez is located across the street from the farm and provides an amazing view of the surrounding landscape with grazing cows and cornfields, a true representation of rural Ohio. 

Cows at Mt. Jeez - Malabar Farm; photo credit Tonya Prater
Cows at Mt. Jeez – Malabar Farm; photo credit Tonya Prater

If you’re limited on time, stick close to downtown. Tour the prison, eat at Coney Island Diner, the oldest restaurant in town, shop for treasures in the antique shops along Main Street, or take a ride one of the 52 carrousel figures at the Richland Carrousel Park. The figures were all created in Mansfield and the carrousel is the first new, hand-carved carrousel built and operated in the U.S. since the 1930’s.

Before leaving town, pop into Buckeye Bakery for the best Long John cream filled donut on the planet.

Buckeye Bakery in Mansfield, Ohio; photo credit Tonya Prater
Buckeye Bakery in Mansfield, Ohio; photo credit Tonya Prater

What’s something unexpected about your home?

Mansfield is known as the most haunted city in Ohio- something I try not to think about.

Mansfield, Ohio is conveniently located between Cleveland to the north and Columbus to the south and easily accessible from State Route 39 or I-71 making it a fun stop on a longer road trip.

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Meet The Local Tourists: Tonya Prater of Travel Inspired Living talks about her hometown of Mansfield, Ohio
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