Shale Hollow Preserve: Observe curious rock formations at secluded park in Lewis Center

Observe curious rock formations at secluded park in Lewis Center

Take your water shoes to Shale Hollow Preserve in Lewis Center and spend a few hours wading in Big Run, a tributary of the Olentangy River that meanders through this 190-acre park that’s relatively hidden among retail stores and housing developments.

Opened in 2013, the park is one of 11 sites operated by Preservation Parks of Delaware County, which cares for the area’s unique, natural habitats in one of the fastest-growing counties in Ohio.

The park offers a nature center with clean restrooms, picnic area, a mile-long crushed-gravel hiking trail and, best of all, an off-trail exploration area, which your family will love.

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It’s natural Ohio at it’s best. Walk a muddy path to the shallow creek filled with shards of shale – perfect, flat stones for skipping to your heart’s content.

Alongside the creek is a four-story cliff layered in shale and curious, spherical rock formations called concretions – that we like to call dinosaur eggs. Some of these “eggs” also are in the creek, popping above the water’s surface like tiny islands.

What else can you do? Take your binoculars and hike the 1.1-mile Great Horned Owl Trail. Spy wild turkeys, woodpeckers, owls and migrating songbirds, as well as read signs to learn about trees like the buckeye, sycamore, cottonwood, beech and sassafras.

The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset year round, so visit in the winter for cross-country skiing.

Shale Hollow Preserve is located at 6320 Artesian Run, Lewis Center, Ohio. (Enter off U.S. Rt. 23.) Learn more.

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Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center: Meet potential pets at bimonthly ‘Mingle With Our Mutts’

Meet potential pets at bimonthly ‘Mingle With Our Mutts’

A trip to the local dog shelter probably doesn’t come to mind when considering a fun adventure for your family.

Not being in the market for a dog, it didn’t come to my mind either until my daughter, Rosie, insisted that we visit a lonely dog named Acura at the Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center in Columbus. Rosie learned about Acura, a young pit bull, while visiting the shelter with her Girl Scout troop. There, she decorated and wrote positive messages on star-shaped cutouts that were taped on the window of Acura’s kennel. One out of four dogs in the shelter, she learned, are pit bulls.

“Can’t we just visit her?” Rosie asked.

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I told Rosie that the following Sunday the shelter was holding its popular adoption event called “Mingle With Our Mutts” – held from noon-2 p.m. on the first and third Sundays of each month. The event, I said, could provide a good opportunity to see Acura and meet and photograph other dogs that were begging for good homes.

The event has been going strong since 2002, drawing more than 400 people a month.

If you’re in the market for family pet, it provides a casual atmosphere to interact with adoptable dogs and puppies from the Franklin County shelter and others from more than 30 different area rescue groups – some of which also have cats.

We met German shepherds, a Great Pyrenees, a dachshund and a really cute hound with a severe underbite. Our last stop was to see Acura. Her eyes lit up and she wagged her tail at the site of Rosie. I hope that tail is still wagging the same way today.

The Franklin County shelter is the largest county shelter in Ohio. Last year it took in nearly 12,000 dogs and puppies including strays and unwanted litters of puppies. On average the shelter has 60-100 dogs and puppies available for adoption daily.

The Franklin County Dog Shelter and Adoption Center is located at 4340 Tamarack Blvd., Columbus. For more information, visit

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Zoombezi Bay: Make like you’re on vacation at Midwest’s best waterpark

Make like you’re on vacation at Midwest’s best waterpark

On days when you’re not on vacation, it’s nice to feel like you are on vacation. My family and I recently felt this way on a humid Saturday afternoon while visiting Zoombezi Bay in Powell.

We lounged around in our bathing suits under big umbrellas, staring at cloud formations, while eating giant cookies and sipping Dr. Pepper. We walked barefoot to a massive pool and tackled 4-foot waves. We plopped ourselves into inner tubes and floated down an aqua river with waterfalls and shooting geysers.

In short, we had fun on our regular day off.

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Zoombezi Bay, which opened in 2008 on the former grounds of Wyandot Lake, is one of the Midwest’s most popular waterparks, attracting more than 400,000 water enthusiasts each year.

Spanning 22 acres, it’s got water slides, a wave pool, manmade rivers and a 1,000-gallon tipping bucket. There are attractions for toddlers including Tiny Tides, where they can splash in shallow water around structures of sea creatures. And there’s Cyclone, a colorful contraption that looks to be straight out of a Dr. Seuss book, where rafters transcend a giant funnel at 20 miles per hour. You must be at least 48-inches tall to ride this one.

The waterpark is owned by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, so admission also includes entry into the zoo. On this particular day, we chose to be entertained by water over gorillas and giraffes.

We quickly learned, though, you can’t dress like a beach bum when roaming the zoo. My daughter wore her swimsuit into the main entrance of the zoo and was told to wrap a towel around herself. Zoo guests are required to wear shirts and shoes until they enter the Zoombezi Bay gates, at which point bathing suits and bare feet are acceptable. We also learned the hard (and hot) way to park closer to the zoo entrance than to the waterpark. You’re not allowed to use the convenient parking lot gate to Zoombezi Bay unless you’re a season pass holder to the waterpark. Your zoo pass won’t work here.

Be sure to bring towels, sunscreen, sunglasses, sun hats, bottled water and a change of clothes. I just wish I would have worn flip-flops, as the pavement got hot quick on my bare feet.

Leave beach umbrellas, goggles, squirt guns and flotation devices at home. Lifejackets are complimentary and available at several locations throughout the park.

We arrived when the waterpark opened at 10:30 a.m. and had our pick of prime seats under a sprawling umbrella and shade trees.

Ramp up your vacation experience by renting a cabana. I envied families who relaxed on shaded chaise lounges, pulled chilled beverages from a mini fridge and ordered their meals from personal attendants.

Save money by bringing a packed cooler – however it will have to stay in a storage area in the zoo. You can get your hand stamped while leaving the waterpark and eat your lunch in a nearby picnic shelter in the zoo then return to the waterpark.

If you must lock up valuables, rentals are available starting at $10 per day. Special activities include “Dive-In Movies” on select Fridays, when you can watch a movie from inside Wild Tides wave pool. (See what’s showing.)

For more information and rates, visit

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Triplehorn Insect Collection: See millions of six-legged specimens at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity

See millions of six-legged specimens at Ohio State’s Museum of Biological Diversity

“Are these alive?” asks 6-year-old Max while observing a tray full of motionless wasps pinned inside white boxes.

“No, nothing here is alive,” replies Luciana Musetti, curator of the Triplehorn Insect Collection in the Museum of Biological Diversity on the Ohio State University’s west campus. Musetti welcomes the public – especially curious children – to check out the more than 3.5 million specimens in the collection, ranked among the best in North America.

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“Are they real?” Max asks.

“They are real,” Musetti says. “Nothing here is plastic.”

“Ewww, they’re gross!” concludes Max.

“If you want to study science, you have to get over the ‘eww’ factor,” assures Musetti. “Insects are awesome and beautiful.”

During our 30-minute visit, Musetti, who studies parasitoid wasps at Ohio State, challenged my children’s thinking about the six-legged creatures that scamper about our planet.

Rosie, 8, learned that butterflies come in all shapes, sizes and colors and that some insects look like leaves and rocks, which protect them from predators. She also learned that some beetles are pretty and resemble gems.

They learned about the benefits of dung beetles, too. “They lay their eggs in dung and the larvae eats the dung,” Musetti says. “If it weren’t for dung beetles, we’d be up to our ears in dung.”

The museum opened in 1992 and contains seven collections that represent more than 9 million specimens, such as ticks, butterflies, beetles, shells and fungi – some stuck with pins to foam and cork, others preserved in alcohol and others tacked on microscope slides. The insect collection is named after Charles A. Triplehorn, who curated the collection for 31 years, beginning in 1962.

The museum is part of the university’s Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences. It has one of the largest collections of audio recordings of animal sounds in the country and a collection of tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) that dates back to 1837.

Scientists and students learn about evolution and biological diversity by studying the collections, which are continually expanding.

Musetti, who has a PhD in entomology from Purdue University, specializes in the taxonomy and systematics of parasitoid wasps – a natural enemy of stinkbugs which have been wreaking havoc on suburbanites. The wasps lay eggs in the legs of stink bugs, and the larvae consume their host legs before the stink bugs can hatch. They’re seen as biological control agents of the invasive and destructive stink bugs.

Before leaving the museum, I signed a guestbook that contained signatures dating to 1939. It felt like I was signing a historic document.

My kids ended their visit by creating what Musetti calls “bugs in goo.” Using tweezers, they put several Japanese beetles in a vial of hand sanitizer. They took them home and played that they were scientists, just like Musetti.

An annual open house is held in February – this year drawing more than 2,000 visitors, making it one of the college’s largest outreach events. The public is welcome to visit the museum for free anytime during the year. However, because it’s a research and teaching facility, visits should be arranged in advance with a collection curator or through the museum’s website at

The Museum of Biological Diversity is located at 1315 Kinnear Rd., room 1220, where there is visitor parking at designated signs, however you must pay to park on the OSU campus. Purchase an hourly pass at the pay-to-park machine at 1110 Kinnear Rd.

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