Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Lancaster’s history is steeped in creativity. It’s the home of the Anchor Hocking Company, once the world’s largest maker of glass tableware. Today, artistic enclaves can be found throughout “Glass City,” near the Hocking River, just 30 minutes southeast of Columbus.

We found a bounty of opportunities for budding artists at businesses along Main Street in Lancaster’s historic downtown. We painted ornaments in a paint-your-own pottery studio, gazed at glass in a museum and toured an art exhibit at another. In between, we admired the unusual murals that decorate the alleys and parking lots.

All the while, we appreciated a slower pace and individualized attention at the businesses we visited, not to mention an absence of traffic and ease of parking.

Art & Clay On Main
150 W. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

We started our adventure at Art & Clay On Main, located within a cheery, sea-foam green building in the heart of downtown. Here, you can order an espresso from the onsite Square Seven Coffee House and pick a piece of unpainted pottery from the shelves.

There’s no need to make a reservation, and the process is simple. We arrived at Christmastime, so among the plates, bowls, mugs and vases, we chose ornaments.

We filled our plastic palettes with paints, then sat at paint-splattered tables. The kids went freestyle with their designs, while I examined finished pieces for inspiration.

I took my time painting a cupcake design, enjoying the serenity of smearing on layer upon layer of dull glaze. An instructor helped me add bits of color that would later resemble sprinkles.

I saw on the calendar that local musicians periodically play for patrons and thought what a joy it would be to paint and listen to live music.

We left our pieces on a tray to be glazed and fired, and retrieved them the following Saturday, pleased as punch.

Ohio Glass Museum and Glass Blowing Studio
124 W. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Get a handle on Lancaster’s glass-making history and even blow glass yourself at the Ohio Glass Museum and Glass Blowing Studio, one of four museums in the downtown area. Others are the Sherman House Museum, Georgian Museum and the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, mentioned below.

I visited the glass museum on my own, after retrieving our family’s painted pottery next door, thinking that maybe a place that’s protecting precious glass isn’t the best spot for children. Au contraire!

The glass museum is a wondrous setting, filled with colorful glass collections that pay homage to Ohio’s once-booming glass industry. They include examples of vaseline glass, which contains uranium and glows under a black light. What kid wouldn’t like that?

I also learned that abundant supplies of natural gas and sandstone in this nook of Fairfield County made it a logical choice for the establishment of the glassmaking industry.

Visitors can produce glass pieces at the on-site glass-blowing studio. Classes, starting at $27, cover how make ornaments, flowers, paperweights and Pandora-like beads for a bracelet. Also be sure to check out the gift shop that’s chock full of locally made merchandise.

Decorative Arts Center of Ohio
145 E. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

See an art exhibit at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, located in the 1835-built Reese-Peters House adjacent to the Sherman House. The museum, open Tuesday through Sunday, is free to visit.

I popped in while the artwork of Nelly Toll was on display, and was impressed by the magnitude of the exhibit, which included more than 40 prints of her childhood paintings. When Toll was eight years old, she and her mother went into hiding for two years from Nazis occupying Poland in 1943. Amid tragedy, young Toll envisioned a brighter life through her watercolor paintings.

Besides thoughtful exhibits, check out the onsite Wendel Center for Art Education for equally thoughtful classes such as the Adult and Child Watercolor Workshop and the Art of Manners, where kids ages 8 through 17 can learn about table manners and cell phone etiquette.

While you’re in town, have lunch at JB’s Downtown Grill, 111 N. Columbus St. They’ve got kid’s entrees for less than $3, juke boxes on every table and tasty homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches.


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Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits


Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

During our recent visit to Cincinnati, we made sure we crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky and scheduled a visit to the Newport Aquarium, billed as one of the top aquariums in the country.

We were glad we did. After spending a few hours making our way through the winding subterranean seascape, we felt it was perhaps the best aquarium we’ve ever visited.

As its name suggests, the aquarium is located in Newport, just across the Newport Southbank Bridge from Cincinnati. This is the “Purple People Bridge,” so named because it’s pedestrian-only and (you guessed it) is lighted purple at night. Of course, there are plenty of other bridges to drive across from Cincinnati to Kentucky if you prefer, the closest being highway I-471, known as the Daniel Carter Beard Bridge.

Parking was readily available (and affordable) outside the aquarium. The attraction is part of Newport on the Levee, a shopping and dining attraction that has lots of restaurants and stores, a movie theater, a bowling alley and even a “fish spa” called Garra.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

Why did we like Newport Aquarium so much? Let’s start out with what you can see – more than 65 exhibits containing hundreds of aquatic species in 1 million gallons of salt and fresh water. The aquarium felt almost like a museum, albeit a crowded one.

We liked the clever reuse of the shark tank, allowing visitors to first go through it via a long tunnel, then ending the aquarium’s circuitous trek by walking over the open tank on a daredevilish bridge (that was fully netted).

Maybe it was the opportunity to see things we hadn’t seen before – like a white alligator that apparently gets along with turtles, and a giant Pacific octopus, which has the ability to camouflage itself and change its shape.

Newport Aquarium: One of the nation’s finest fishy exhibits

We also enjoyed the huge arapaima, one of the world’s largest freshwater fishes, which trolls the Amazon River. Visitors also can view seahorses in a large tank and go eye-to-eye with a penguin swimming under water.

Rosie and Max got a thrill by interacting with some of the sea life. They were able to touch a sea anemone, a horseshoe crab and a baby shark, then pop their heads through a porthole to see stingrays swimming around them.

It was these collective experiences that made Newport Aquarium memorable.

We did find that the passageways were sometimes a bit narrow for all the people there. This is one popular attraction, so if you can, try to visit during the week. There’s plenty of opportunity – Newport Aquarium is open to the public 365 days a year. We’re already looking forward to our next visit.

The Newport Aquarium is located at One Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky. Learn more at www.newportaquarium.com.


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Find cold-weather fun in Mansfield area


We’re on top of a snowy mountain, poised to plummet 1,100 feet down on a rubber inner tube.

With a push, we’re off and rushing toward the bottom, laughing all the way.

It’s Ohio, where the weather can fluctuate like the wind. Today it’s sunny and 50 degrees. But here, at the family-owned Snow Trails resort, we’re surrounded by snow.

Winter is no reason to hibernate in Columbus. We ventured to the Mansfield area, about 45 minutes north of Columbus, for a weekend adventure. We slid down the slippery slope, sought out waterfalls in a hemlock-filled forest and took a spin around a whimsical carrousel in a historic downtown.

Weather in these parts doesn’t hinder the experience. It only enhances it.

Snow Trails

Feel adrenaline of racing down a hill at this resort and lodge, which opened in 1961 and features skiing, snowboarding and tubing. If it’s not snowing, the owners of Snow Trails create it and spread it around using high-powered machines on the slopes.

Snow Trails offers six tubing lanes and a carpeted conveyor belt to transport you up the hill. Go Glow Tubing after dark Thursday through Sunday, when you can slide under a series of illuminated arches.

Warm up by a fire pit and grab some snacks indoors. No experience is needed, and all ages are welcomed, they told us. It’s fun to slide solo or grab onto your mates to form a chain.

We paid $25 per person for two hours of tubing, which was plenty of time. The cost included the use of a tube and transportation on the conveyor belt. Arrive early to avoid evening crowds.

Snow Trails is located at 3100 Possum Run Rd., Mansfield, and is open December through March. Learn more and make a reservation.

Mohican State Park

We pulled into the Mohican Lodge and Conference Center just in time for some games in the lively lobby before dinner. Mike taught Max how to play pool while Rosie and I played ping pong. Others played board games or sat in chairs that formed a circle around a fireplace.

The lodge is rustic and could use a facelift in some places. But what it lacked in style, it made up in its outdoor surroundings.

It’s situated in the 1,110-acre Mohican State Park, which is adjacent to the 4,525-acre Mohican-Memorial State Forest. Peaks and valleys formed here 12,000 years ago by glaciers define what is known today as the Clear Fork Gorge. This land was once explored by the Delaware Indians and frequented by John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, a pioneer who introduced apple trees to Ohio and neighboring states.

Mike and I set out on our own to explore the outdoors. We started at Pleasant Hill Lake, where we walked on a bridge at the Pleasant Hill Dam. We then took a two-mile looping path to investigate two waterfalls that jutted from sandstone cliffs. The Little Lyons Falls is visible from an overhead bridge. It drops 25 feet into a narrow gorge. The 80-foot Big Lyons Falls is more impressive and viewed beneath in a recess cave. We also visited a covered bridge that spans the Clear Fork River.

Mohican Lodge and Conference Center is located at 1098 Ashland County Rd., 3006, Perrysville, Ohio. Learn more.

Richland Carrousel Park

To a child, the only thrill greater than seeing an old-fashioned carousel is climbing aboard one of its shiny, majestic creatures. One of the best places for children of all ages to do just that in Ohio is in Mansfield.

The city pays homage to the amusement-park ride in its downtown Carrousel District, which features several blocks of unique shops and restaurants in beautifully restored Victorian buildings. There are restaurants on every block, seemingly. We enjoyed some good burgers and a couple pints of Guinness at Uncle John’s Place on Main Street.

At the heart of the area is the Richland Carrousel Park, where guests can ride an old-fashioned roundabout for $1. It has 52 animal figures, each carved and painted in a 1900s style by Carousel Works in Mansfield. Among the menagerie are 30 horses, several bears and ostriches, a zebra and a goat. The company also restored the rounding boards, mirrors and mural frames, which depict past and present attractions in Mansfield.

The ride is housed in a heated pavilion that contains the carousel and a gift shop featuring musical figurines and other playful items.

The Richland Carrousel Park is located at 75 N. Main St., Mansfield. It’s open seven days a week, except major holidays. Learn more.


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Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal

Historic train station shines after $228 million restoration


Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Cincinnati Union Terminal

As we approached the Union Terminal in Cincinnati, we didn’t quite know what to expect.

We often like to explore landmarks without a mission, letting spontaneity be our guide. That was the case recently as we entered the stunning train station built during the Great Depression.

We knew we wanted to take in the art deco architecture and experience the workmanlike grandeur of Winold Reiss’ mosaics, which help to create an eye-popping entry when combined with the vibrant ceiling, the largest half dome in the western hemisphere.

But this depot in the city’s Queensgate neighborhood is much more than an old train station. It’s the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, consisting of three museums and an Omnimax theater. So there are plenty of places to explore and have fun once you stop gazing at the 180-foot rotunda dome.

The terminal opened in 1933 and was built to serve 17,000 passengers and more than 200 trains daily. It closed to passenger traffic in 1972, then reopened as an Amtrak line in 1991.

In November, the center completed a $228 million renovation on the terminal, bringing it back to its original glory.

Here’s a flavor of the various museums that occupy parts of the building. You can enter each with a Discover Pass, and there’s plenty of additional admission information on the museum’s website.

Cincinnati History Museum

The city’s past is on display, from the initial settlers through the second world war. Costumed actors give you a feel of what it was like living in the Queen City, and you can check out the Queen City of the West, a replica side-wheel steamboat. Next year the history museum will include Cincinnati in Motion, what it’s calling the country’s largest s-gauge model train display.

Duke Energy Children’s Museum

Duke Energy Children’s Museum
Duke Energy Children’s Museum

We really liked this museum, which is essentially a huge play area for kids. There are eight interactive spaces to explore and learn about such topics as energy, nature and science. Highlights include a webbed enclosure called the Energy Zone where kids can release steam throwing balls and working simple machines, and a two-story jungle gym called The Woods where kids can tunnel through an aquarium.

Museum of Natural History & Science

Cincinnati History Museum
Museum of Natural History & Science

Dinosaurs dominate this exhibit. There are six prehistoric creatures on display, covering the Jurassic Period (153 to 145 million years ago) and the Cretaceous Period (145 to 65 million years ago), five of which are on display to the public for the first time. They include the only known associated skeleton of a Torvosaurus, a meat eater of the late Jurassic period.

Our son, Max, enjoyed an add-on activity ($5), going face-down into a motion simulator for a three-minute ride through a Jurassic jungle.

The Discovery Pass, $14.50 for adults and $10.50 for kids, provides admission to the three museums. For extra fees you can see a film at the Robert D. Lindner Family Omnimax Theater, or visit two special exhibits: Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World, and Chocolate: The Exhibition.

Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World
Guitar: The Instrument that Rocked the World

The guitar exhibit has dozens of guitars on display, ranging from the classic Fender Stratocaster to lutes and other antiquities. We learned about the history of chocolate production through informational displays and antique tins and other collectibles. (There were no chocolate samples, much to our dismay.)

If you visit on a weekend, be prepared for good-sized crowds and a somewhat congested parking situation. Lines were long to exit when we arrived, but we stayed until the museums almost closed, and it was easy to get out.

Learn more about the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal.


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