Learn what’s brewing in central Ohio, earn cool T-shirt

The Columbus Coffee Experience lets you sample the quality of superior roasted coffee in Ohio’s capital city. On the self-guided tour from Experience Columbus, you get a passport at one of the 17 participating coffee shops. After getting four stamps, you earn a trail T-shirt, and if you fill ‘er up, you can redeem the passport for a travel mug. Read more in our guest blog, “Check out what’s percolating in Columbus,” for Ohio.org.
  • 654
2020 Ohio Travel Guide

Get your copy today

We had the pleasure of writing the Southeast Ohio section of the 2020 Ohio Travel Guide. The free publication, produced by Tourism Ohio, is packed with inspirational travel ideas and calendars of events. Get your 2020 Ohio Travel Guide.

  • 654
We joined Phil Kelly and Shawn Ireland on Good Day Columbus to share our experiences writing for our blog Columbus Family Adventures, and how you can start one for yourself.

The journey of blogging with Columbus Family Adventures

We recently joined Phil Kelly and Shawn Ireland on Good Day Columbus to share our experiences blogging for Columbus Family Adventures, and how you can start a blog for yourself. Watch our clip on Good Day Columbus.

  • 654
Made in Cbus Trail: Make keepsakes at four central Ohio shops, earn a tote bag

Make keepsakes at four central Ohio shops, earn tote bag

I find the most memorable adventures to be hands-on experiences. They’re even more meaningful when I can make a keepsake along the way.

The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shop

Such was the case when I tapped the letters of my family members’ names onto a bronze heart while making a necklace at the Smithery in Grandview Heights. The shop offers metal smithing classes for adults and children, and has a gift shop full of neat, handmade creations by local artisans.

The Smithery: Make memorable, metal trinkets at Grandview shop

I participated in a “Make and Take” workshop that included choosing a charm, stamping it with decorations and threading it onto a chain. It took about 30 minutes, and it cost less than $20.

Plus, I received a stamp in my Made in Cbus Trail passport, taking one step closer to receiving a free tote bag from Experience Columbus.

The Smithery is one of more than 30 central Ohio stops on the Made in Cbus Trail. Visit one to pick up your trail booklet. Shop and collect stamps at any four, and you’ll receive a Made in Cbus tote bag, compliments of the visitors bureau.

Below are three more do-it-yourself projects we completed along the trail.

Candle Lab
Multiple locations throughout central Ohio

“Wasabi,” “Snickerdoodle,” “Old Books.” We considered these peculiar fragrances when we set out to make our own candle that captured our personalities at the Candle Lab in downtown Worthington.

The Candle Lab is a specialty store where customers can buy pre-made, scented candles, or concoct their own. Fragrance selections vary by season, and you can choose up to three scents to blend. The candles are made of pure soy wax, which burns long and is environmentally friendly.

The process of picking a scent, mixing it with liquid wax and allowing it to harden takes a little over an hour. Most candles cost less than $25.

Popular fragrance recipes among the younger crowd include mixing “Bubble Gum” and “Watermelon” to produce a scent resembling watermelon-flavored Bubblicious chewing gum. Another mixes “Campfire,” “Toasted Marshmallow” and “Dark Chocolate” to yield a s’mores-scented candle.

I settled on an earthy trio of pineapple, peach and patchouli, since I’m a sucker for alliteration.

The Candle Lab’s fragrances are stored in amber bottles with white labels. We poured each of our selections into a bartender’s jigger. Then we emptied the mixture into an 8-ounce tin filled with soy wax and a wick. Voila! In an hour’s time, we had our personalized candles.

There also are Candle Lab store locations in Grandview Heights, the Short North and near the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Igloo Letterpress

You might not think of a print shop as a place to take your family. But Igloo Letterpress in Worthington is a great place to visit for personalized stationery and related classes.

For instance, you can take classes in bookbinding, calligraphy and the art of letterpress printing. Owner Allison Chapman uses seven printers, including one that dates to 1892, to create stunning letterpress works of art.

Allison told me the old printer came from her grandfather, who was a printing hobbyist. The same equipment is used to make greeting cards and posters sold in the store, including an impressive farmer’s market series.

Igloo Letterpress also offers handbook binding, custom stationery and a variety of unique cards. Allison says stationery-making is the most-popular class. Participants use antique wood and metal machines to typeset their names and then complete the printing process.

The stationery class costs $40 and can be scheduled by appointment via the company’s website. No appointment is needed to make a book at the Book Bar, where you can quickly put together a journal for less than $10.

Better yet, pair a visit to the Book Bar with a visit to the nearby Sassafras Bakery, which has a milk-and-cookie happy hour from 3-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Wild Cat

Wild Cat is an independent business in the heart of Clintonville that’s just as creative and wild as its name suggests.

Here you’ll find an assortment of T-shirts, coasters and nightlights touting local institutions such as Tee Jaye’s Country Place and Nancy’s Home Cooking.

You also can learn lots of off-the-wall skills, including how to make pom-pom earrings, a crocheted unicorn toy or a watercolor painting of succulents. You can even learn how to read tarot cards.

We like to pop in on Saturday mornings during the Clintonville Farmer’s Market, when Wild Cat offers free activities for children.

We’ve strung plastic beads to form friendship bracelets and cut construction paper into strips to create super-hero wristbands.

My daughter also made a necklace with interchangeable magnetic pendants while attending a birthday party.

Enjoy more pics of these do-it-yourself adventures:

  • 654
Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

Think of a merry-go-round, and the image of horses leaps to mind. But organizers at the Merry-Go-Round Museum, along the shores of Lake Erie, want you to know there are more to carousel critters than just painted ponies.

The museum, which opened in 1990 near Cedar Point in Sandusky, displays a mixed breed of figures and provides an opportunity to ride one aboard a restored 1939 Allan Herschell carousel, the main attraction of the museum.

Besides horses, visitors will find a rabbit, camel, goat, chicken, dragon and a menacing wolf. All are masterfully carved from wooden boards and painted in realistic detail. Some come from France, built around the turn of the 20th century.

Merry-Go-Round Museum: There’s motion in this Sandusky menagerie

The museum also offers an opportunity to see and chat with a carver at work. During a recent visit, I learned that non-horse figures are called menagerie pieces. Some of the old ones are on loan from private collections. Others were recently carved or restored and soon will be installed on working carousels throughout the country. Just 200 original wooden carousels are still in operation across the United States today.

The first thing you’ll notice, though, is the building that houses the museum. Built in 1927 as a post office, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, thanks in part to its unique, round shape.

It became a carousel museum in 1990, two years after the Postal Service issued four commemorative carousel stamps. Sales of the stamps drew thousands of people to the odd duck of a building. Carousel enthusiasts put two and two together and decided what better place to house a round ride than a round building in the center of town.

The Merry-Go-Round Museum is located at 301 Jackson St., Sandusky. Admission is $6 for adults; $5 for seniors ages 60 and up; and $4 for children ages 4-14. For more information, call 419-626-6111 or visit www.merrygoroundmuseum.org.

  • 654
Ten Pin Alley: Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball

Hilliard entertainment center offers bowling, laser tag, arcade, bocce ball

Rosie and Max tightly grip their blue laser-tag blasters as they zip through a two-story labyrinth that’s decked out like Jules Verne’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” complete with a giant octopus strung from the ceiling.

Black lights illuminate our kids’ way as they pursue their temporary enemy: The red team. The battle elicits laughter and high-fives, and the ultimate, “Let’s do it again!”

The game, dubbed Steampunk H20, is just one option for fun at Ten Pin Alley in Hilliard. The bowling alley and entertainment center spans 37,000 square feet, the result of a recent $5 million renovation and expansion. Other options include dozens of arcade games and bocce ball.

“Most people bowl less than five miles from where they live,” said Andy Beougher, director of sales and marketing of the independently owned Ten Pin Alley. “We wanted to be a destination.”

Food options include appetizers, hand-tossed pizzas and burgers, which can be enjoyed at your table as you bowl or eaten in the large dining area with a big bar. Garage doors open to an expansive outdoor patio.

Spare touches include original artwork and oddities, such as chandeliers and a decades-old neon sign that reads Ten Pin Bowl in a secluded eight-lane alley that can be reserved for private parties.

Another striking element is that Ten Pin donates 2 percent of its sales to several local charities through its Heart & Bowl philanthropic program.

Ten Pin Alley is located at 5499 Ten Pin Alley. Learn more at www.tenpinalley.com.

  • 654
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.

  • 654

Explore 30 acres of fun at world’s largest museum for kids

Featuring more than 3,200 pieces of blown glass, Fireworks of Glass by Dale Chihuly can be viewed from all sides.

The magnitude of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is epitomized in a 43-foot sculpture by noted glass artist Dale Chihuly. It’s his largest permanent installation of blown glass, so magnificent that visitors are encouraged to view it from all angles, even through it, from below, like a kaleidoscope.

Founded in 1925, the downtown attraction pitches itself as the world’s largest museum for kids, with 481,000 square feet of space containing a dozen major galleries that range from dinosaurs to outer space. We didn’t measure it, but we can tell you the place is immense, and it’s certainly worth planning a visit to Indianapolis. It would be easy to spend all day and more here and still feel like you’ve missed something, as we did when we visited with Rosie and Max. We have to say it was the best children’s museum we’ve ever seen.

As you enter you can’t miss the huge model dinosaurs that greet your arrival. They foreshadow one of the museum’s signature exhibits – Dinosphere – where you’ll meet Bucky, said to be the sixth-most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found, and Dracorex Hogwartsia, a recently discovered species that has a spiky skull and was named after the dragon in the Harry Potter series.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do at some of the museum’s inside exhibits:

Learn to sketch a Dracorex at one of the many interactive exhibits.

• See full-sized dinosaur skeletons, touch a T-rex, dig for bones and view one of the largest juvenile dinosaur fossil collections in the world at Dinosphere. In addition to Bucky and Dracorex, you’ll meet Leonardo, a mummified dinosaur found in Montana in 2002.

• Be moved by The Power of Children exhibit, a tribute to three young folks who’ve touched our hearts. Step into the bedroom of Ryan White, the brave young boy who died in 1990 after contracting AIDS through a blood transfusion. Pay tribute to Anne Frank, who told stories of the Holocaust through her diary, and Ruby Bridges, a first-grader who became one of the first black students to integrate into the white school system in New Orleans.

• Experience what it means to be an astronaut in Beyond Spaceship Earth. It’s an immersive exhibit that relates the story of NASA’s Project Mercury program, which propelled the first Americans into space.

• Take a ride for a dollar on the Broad Ripple Carousel, a 1917-vintage ride that was reclaimed from an old Indianapolis amusement park. The ride contains 42 original animals and a 1919 Wurlitzer band organ. Also on the museum’s fifth floor are games, puzzles, a tree house and a maze of mirrors.

One of the attractions that separates the Indy museum from other children’s museums we’ve visited is the indoor/outdoor attraction known as Sports Legends Experience. It’s a ginormous play space for children and adults that combines physical fitness with an appreciation of sports history. In the 15 exhibits you can participate in many popular sports.

Here’s a sampling of what you can do outside through early November:

Swing for the fences at Wiese Field within the Sports Legends Experience.

• Climb the 25-foot Tree of Sports sculpture (or take the elevator), and chat with someone on the ground using talk tubes. See a panoramic view of the sports fields, then zoom down one of three slides to get back to ground level.

• Swing for the fences at Wiese Field, a miniature ballpark with modified equipment the museum provides. Anybody can go up to bat. Just enter the dugout and get ready to hit one deep. You can run the bases, throw to a pitching tutor and pose for a photo after you’re done.

• Pedal around a miniature race track, and speed along a short drag road at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pedal Car Racetrack Experience and Church Brothers Collision Repair Drag Strip, which pays homage to Indiana’s strong history of auto racing.

• Throw a football around at the Indianapolis Colts Gridiron Experience. We thought it was really fun for two more reasons: You can try to split the uprights at a field goal kicking game – there are distances for both the young ones and adults. And you can try to hit a receiver in stride around permanent cutouts; or try “laying out” for a pass as you dive into a cushioned pile.

• Sample other live-action sports, including soccer, tennis, golf, hockey and track-and-field.

The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis is open daily. See the museum’s admissions page for more information, as the hours and admission pricing are variable.

  • 654