The Works: Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum

Head to Newark for interesting, inexpensive, interactive science museum

The Works is an interactive science museum in Newark that proved to us worthy of a 40-minute drive east of Columbus for a hearty dose of mental fun.

The museum offered the right amount of entertaining activities that challenged our kids’ knowledge of history, art and technology at a fair price. We spent less than $30 for our family of four to play for several hours.

We started our adventure in the Main Gallery, where we explored an exhibit called “Lines of Sight” that illustrates the connection between art and mathematics through hands-on displays. It was neat to see how a drawing on a flat piece of paper can appear three-dimensional.

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We then motored to the main section of the museum on the first floor where there are lots of interactive stations called “labs.”  Each lab focuses on a particular topic like motion, sound, electricity and light and gives children and adults an opportunity to experiment.

We dug our hands into bins full of wheels and colorful plastic parts to create cars that we then raced down a ramp. It was fun to see that some illogical-looking contraptions outperformed others that seemed to make more sense.

Upstairs, visitors will find a boatload of history and see the remnants of this old building that during the 1800s was used to build steam engines. Exhibits highlight history and economic developments in Newark and Licking counties from the Paleo-Indians to modern times. The kids enjoyed typing on manual typewriters and calling each other on rotary phones. It was funny to observe them trying to figure out the rotary dial.

We also saw blobs of molten glass blown and transformed into colorful works of art in the Glass Studio. Visitors can watch demos or pop into the open studio the third Saturday of the month to fuse glass into sun catchers or jewelry.

Cost is $5 for children, $9 for adults and $7 for seniors. Children ages 2 and under get in free.

The Works is located at 55 S. First St., Newark. For more information, call 740-349-9277 or visit

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Doll Museum at the Old Rectory: Perfect place for a quick mommy-and-daughter adventure

Perfect place for a quick mommy-and-daughter adventure

Exploring Worthington’s Doll Museum proved to be more of a treat than expected for my daughter, Rosie, and me one Saturday morning. The museum, located in the Old Rectory, provides a fascinating glimpse of hundreds of dolls and, curiously, is linked to a fantastic consignment shop that had us digging around for spare change.

Run by the Worthington Historical Society, the museum is contained in two rooms that are kept locked until you pay the $2 admission fee. Several other rooms contain the consignment shop, where you’ll find quality antiques and collectibles at reasonable prices. Unlike thrift-store merchandise, these items appear to have one day been someone’s favorite things. They included teacups and saucers with pretty rose designs, well cared for dolls with pressed outfits, and lots of doll clothes lovingly crafted.

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We started our adventure in the museum. Visitors are given a two-sided, laminated sheet with information describing the collection. They come from many sources, but most were donated by Mrs. George Brinton Chandler in 1968.

Some dolls on display once served as fashion models, shipped overseas from Paris donning the latest fads of the 1800s in doll-sized proportions. Their well-coiffed hairdos are made from human hair.

Other dolls depict famous royals such as Countess Dagmar of Denmark, who was married to Czar Alexander III, and Empress Eugenie of France, wife of Emperor Napoleon  III.

It was fun learning about the interesting materials used to construct some of the dolls, like paper mache for heads, pewter for hands and feet, and wood, rubber, wax and even a wishbone for the bodies.

I enjoyed the Shirley Temple dolls and a collection of ornamental dolls from Japan that represented an emperor, empress and their court.

Rosie’s favorites were two doll houses that were chockfull of furnishings and tiny, detailed decorations that looked fit to welcome a fairy.

We ended our tour by perusing the gift shop, full of enchanting merchandise that we felt propelled to consider. I bought a dainty glass poodle with pretty eyelashes. Rosie selected miniatures for her own doll house and a homemade lacy dress for her American Girl Doll. The shop accepts only cash or checks.

The Doll Museum is located at 50 W. New England Ave., Worthington. Hours are 1-4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Saturday. Cost is $2 for a self-guided tour.

For more information call 614-885-1247 or visit

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Kelton House Museum and Garden: Tour restored Victorian home that was once a stop along Underground Railroad

Tour Victorian-era home that was stop along Underground Railroad

On a frigid January afternoon, my daughter, Rosie, and I followed a costumed man through the Kelton House, a Victorian-era home and museum in downtown Columbus.

The historic home is open for docent-led tours on Sundays from 1-4 p.m. Our tour was the last of the day, as snow began to pile up outside, keeping other would-be tourists away.

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Mark Welch, a thin, gray-haired man in a long, black coat, led us through parlors filled with 19th-century furnishings and antiques that were once owned by the Kelton family. He showed us jewelry made from human hair and a bed where a member of the Kelton family had died. He also told us that some think the old house is haunted. He said that other docents have heard the voice of a little girl from behind a door. He then left us to explore the upstairs rooms on our own, as he swiftly departed down a spiral staircase.

Rosie and I followed Welch afterward and joked that he, too, was a ghost. Our exploration proved adventuresome and educational, as is the intent of the museum, which opened in 1976 and is operated by the Junior League of Columbus.

Built in 1852, the house was once home to Fernando Cortez Kelton and Sophia Langdon Stone Kelton. It stayed with the family for three generations until 1975 when the Kelton’s granddaughter, Grace, passed away.

Fernando was a prosperous wholesaler of dry goods and pharmaceuticals, but risked losing everything to help fugitive slaves as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The Keltons took in a runaway named Martha Hartway, who remained with the family for a decade.

Our tour concluded with a visit to the Underground Railroad Learning Station, located on the lower level of the house, where visitors can see a replica of a secret hiding place that helped slaves attain freedom.

Fernando also was a pallbearer in Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession that went through Ohio and ended up in Illinois. Fernando’s son, Oscar, fought in the Civil War against slavery and died in battle.

On the second Sunday of each month, the museum presents “Trails of Hope,” re-enactments of Underground Railroad stories about fugitive slaves and their protectors.

The Kelton Museum and Garden, 586 E. Town St., is first an educational facility, but also a popular wedding destination with a beautiful Victorian garden. For more information, visit or call 614-464-2022.

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The Kitchen: Make meals, memories at participatory eatery in German Village

Make meals, memories at participatory eatery in German Village

It was a sweet chore that my family was only too happy to perform. We carried marshmallows, candy corn, licorice whips, and other confections to a food-preparation table, where we constructed edible haunted houses out of gingerbread cutouts and frosting.

Our handicraft was part of a participatory food experience at the Kitchen in Columbus’ German Village neighborhood. The business, which opened in 2013, offers the tools and guidance for guests to tackle intimidating culinary creations in a fun environment. It’s housed in a hip, 1920s-era building with hardwood floors, exposed brick walls and a tin ceiling.

“Our focus is on the social side of getting people together with food. The educational component is sort of accidental,” said Anne Boninsegna, who co-owns the Kitchen with chef Jen Lindsey.

We visited the Kitchen on Halloween. For $20 apiece, we were given all the fixings to create masterful haunted houses during a three-hour workshop. It was a bargain, considering the amount of preparation that went into the craft, including setup and cleanup.

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Chef Lindsey made the icing and the tasty gingerbread cutouts that formed the walls of our houses. She also made energizing, whimsical snacks including apple slices with caramel, veggies with ranch dip and hot dogs wrapped in biscuits that she called “mummy dogs.”

The Kitchen is open most days of the week for public and private events, each priced according to the number of participants and necessary ingredients. The space offers a commercial cooking environment with professional tools and a seasoned chef.

Most Kitchen experiences are adult-oriented, and the place is often booked for corporate business. But several times a year, families take center stage. Family-related events have included candy making on Valentine’s Day and creating a vegetable soup with colorful ingredients to the theme of the children’s book Rainbow Stew, by Cathryn Falwell.

“Just fun stuff that brings parents and kids together,” Boninsegna said.

The owners say that the best memories are formed around a dinner table. Guests can help prepare a meal before they sit down together to enjoy it, narrowing the line between patron and chef.

“We feel it’s great to sit down and have a dinner with somebody,” Boninsegna said. “But if you cook food together first, you get a richer experience than if you just make reservations and go out to dinner.”

Themes have included a gluten-free dinner party and a Harry Potter potluck, when guests, dressed as characters from the books, created dishes that corresponded with their personalities.

So how can you get a taste of the Kitchen without attending a private party? Attend Taco Tuesday, weekly from 5-9 p.m. The event features unique taco themes – from Mexican to Italian to southern BBQ-inspired tacos. The menu is served a la carte and features specialty cocktail selections, beers and wines that pair with the night’s theme. No reservation is needed for this family-friendly dinner.

For more information, visit or call 614-225-8940.

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Orton Geological Museum: Earth’s curiosities will please youngsters at free OSU museum

Earth’s curiosities will please youngsters at free OSU museum

I discovered the Orton Geological Museum while as a student at the Ohio State University. I enjoyed exploring the architecture of older buildings on campus, such as Orton Hall, which dates back to 1893. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and is well-known on campus for its beloved bell tower that chimes every 15 minutes.

You can enter the Orton Geological Museum from the Orton Hall lobby. The museum and building are named after geologist Edward Orton – Ohio State’s first president.

I liked to gaze at cases of crystals, fossils, meteorites and casts of dinosaur bones among the more than 54,000 specimens. But the showstopper remains the case of minerals that rest behind a black curtain. When you press a button, they glow in ultraviolet light.

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I recently returned to the free museum with my children. It’s part of the School of Earth Sciences and used for research, teaching and public display. What would Rosie and Max think of the concealed case of minerals?

Just being on campus was an adventure for my 6- and 8-year-old, but they were especially captivated by the little museum with signage that appeared to be as much relics as the items they explained. Like during past visits, there were no other people in the museum.

Rosie and Max saw for-sale items in a glass case before they spotted the fluorescent minerals. There were fossil shark teeth for 25 cents and handmade gemstone necklaces for $4. We rang a bell that triggered an academic-looking gentleman to assist us. We settled on two crystal-growing kits for $4.50 apiece.

“Did you see what’s behind the black curtain?” the man asked.

Rosie and Max ran behind the curtain before I had a chance to see their reactions.

“Push the button!” I said from outside.

“Wow, awesome!” I heard two little voices simultaneously say.

Mission accomplished.

The Orton Geological Museum is located at 155 S. Oval Mall. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday and on evenings and weekends by appointment.

For more information call 614-292-6896 or visit

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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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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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400 West Rich Street

Five reasons to visit arts complex in East Franklinton

I like the term artist colony. It makes me think of a colony of bees that overtook our 1968 Impala, making their hive inside the shell of this decaying workhorse of a car that served our family well before retiring in our yard.

A 10,000-square-foot building now known as 400 West Rich Street, just west of downtown Columbus across the Scioto River, is like that old car to me. Built in 1910 as a factory for sinks and toilets, it’s now a creative space buzzing with artists. They’ve turned this rusty nook of East Franklinton into a sweet place to visit for Friday night gallery openings and Saturday morning farmers markets.

Its attraction is sticking, luring in more artists, new business and housing developments. Here are five reasons we like to visit this creative hub in a comeback neighborhood:

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It’s a little gritty

Look around 400 West Rich Street and you see evidence of a storied past and a promising future. A nearby boarded-up house sports a Las Vegas-esque banner cheering “Welcome to Franklinton, Ohio.” Inside are worn brick walls, concrete floors, exposed ducts and original windows and doors. The stage plays well against the vibrant art and eclectic food at Strongwater, the onsite restaurant and bar that opened in 2013.

It’s artsy and fun

400 West Rich is home to more than 100 artists and design studios. It’s also the home of Movement Activities, which offers classes in aerial trapeze – think slow dance movements while swinging on a low trapeze. It’s fun to watch the performers practice. It’s also the site of Urban Scrawl, a two-day festival in late August featuring music, food trucks and local artists creating murals that are later displayed in the neighborhood. There’s also Independents Day, an annual festival in late September that celebrates local artists and businesses.

You can learn something

Classes are offered in aerial dance, yoga and painting. Learn to paint “happy little trees” in a class that’s inspired by the late artist Bob Ross and his television show “The Joy of Painting.”

You can go marketing

The 400 Market is a biweekly event held 11 a.m.-2 p.m. the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. It features Ohio products and offers fresh fruits and vegetables, bread, raw honey, chunks of soap and jewelry.

Fridays can be special

“Franklinton Fridays” are held 7-11 p.m. the second Friday of every month. You might see art show openings, and you definitely can breeze through the open artist studios. Enjoy food and drink, too.

For more information visit or stop by at 400 W. Rich St., Columbus.

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