American Whistle Corporation, Columbus Family Adventures

Take a factory tour, get a free whistle

America’s only manufacturer of metal whistles is located right here in Columbus. You can tour the little factory on the north side of the city, where a dozen employees make about 5,000 whistles a day. You’ll even get a free whistle when you leave. But it’ll cost you $4 first to take the tour.

For years I’ve known about American Whistle, which has been fashioning whistles out of solid brass for police officers, coaches and everyday folk since 1956. Oddly, though, it wasn’t until I recently read in a city guide that Columbus’ own Jeni Britton Bauer said the factory was among her favorite local tourist destinations that I finally made the effort to visit with my children.

[wowslider id=”51″]

Factory tours are offered by appointment Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Everyone leaves with a shiny new “American Classic” whistle. The 45-minute tour is suitable for preschoolers to senior citizens.

I phoned a day ahead, and Rosie, Max and I were added to an existing tour the following day. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see about 30 people waiting outside of the garage-like building on Huntley Road.

As the tour began inside the one-room factory, we were informed not to take any pictures of the whistle-making process and to stand between two lines painted on the cement floor. Children were encouraged to stand in front for a better view.

I cringed at the thought of our kids getting out of line and snatching unfinished whistles. But, like magic, all of the children seemed captivated by the process.

The first machine cut brass into a shape that looks like a Mickey Mouse head. Another machine created a second shape. Yet another combined the parts, soldering them into the familiar whistle shape.

The whistles then went into a tumbler where they were polished. Final machines added signature stamps and inserted rubberlike balls before the whistles were prepared for shipment to places like Walmart, where they’re sold under the name “American Spirit.”

“Does a whistle work without the ball?” our tour guide asked.

“No,” the children replied.

He blew into a whistle, proving that it did indeed work without a ball. Its purpose, he said, is to roll around inside the whistle’s chamber, producing the trademark trilling sound.

Like an amusement park ride, the tour ended by funneling us through a gift shop. It was just a display counter by the exit door, where you’ll find whistles, lanyards, rubber protectors for whistles, T-shirts, mugs and magnets, priced from $1 to $60 for a gold-plated whistle that the NFL annually presents to Super Bowl officials.

“Don’t blow a whistle in someone’s ear,” our tour guide warned. “It’s a tool.”

I cringed again, dreading our car ride home with three shiny new whistles.

The American Whistle Corp. is located at 6540 Huntley Rd., Columbus. For more information, call 614-846-2918 or visit

  • 654
Barnstormer Diner at OSU Airport

Eat hearty breakfast, watch airplanes come and go

My kids love pancakes, and they love going to airports. After a recent adventure, they now have a newfound love for the Ohio State University Airport, where they can devour blueberry pancakes inside an aviation-themed diner and watch from an observation tower as planes take off and land.

The small airport, seven miles north of the OSU campus, also offers free popcorn and coloring books, making it a fun family destination, especially on weekend mornings. That’s when Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner opens at 7 a.m. for breakfast served with a Spanish flair. Think huevos rancheros with spicy sausage.

[wowslider id=”50″]

The restaurant is operated by Geno and Hilda Garcia-Mandriotti, owners of the popular Jack and Benny’s in Clintonville. Geno graduated from Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in aviation management and obtained his pilot’s license from the university’s training program – making the location for his newest restaurant rather fitting.

Framed pictures of aircraft and famed pilots such as Eddie Rickenbacker adorn the eatery’s walls, and guests can peek into the airplane hangar to check out several single-engine planes.

The airport terminal is adjacent to the restaurant. Serve yourself some popcorn and browse merchandise in the Pilot Shop, a display case with OSU and aviation-themed merchandise.

Climb several flights of steps into the observation tower for a 360-degree view of the airport, ramp and runways. Listen to pilots communicate over the radio and sign the guestbook, too.

The airport was established in 1942 as the site of the university’s first pilot training program. It was named Don Scott Field a year later in honor of the acclaimed football player who died in a bomber crash in England that same year.

Housing 200 aircraft, the airport ranks fourth in Ohio for the number of takeoffs and landings – about 75,000 per year, according to its website. Those using the airport include students, corporations and pleasure flyers, and even manatees being transferred to and from the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Free tours are available by appointment.

The Ohio State University Airport is located at 2160 W. Case Rd., Columbus. Jack and Benny’s Barnstormer Diner is open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The observation tower is open daily 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

For more information, visit

  • 654