Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio

Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio

Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio

We love to spend time at Ohio’s nine state park lodges. After all, they’re part of our great state’s rich travel inventory, and they’re there for the taking.

Our latest visit was to the lodge at Maumee Bay State Park, 1,300 wonderful acres set right on Lake Erie, about 10 miles east of Toledo. Like many of the other state park lodges, Maumee Bay Lodge lets you know unmistakably that you’re on the water.

When you step inside Maumee Bay, you get the feel of a coastal getaway, from the huge picture windows looking out on the lake, to the blue-and-green seafaring motif. At the surrounding state park, you’re likely to see bald eagles, great blue herons, sandhill cranes and swans.

Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio
Red-winged blackbird along boardwalk

Maumee Bay and the surrounding wetlands are part of Maumee Bay State Park, a protected area. Wetlands offer ideal bird watching opportunities.

In our opinion, one of the park’s best assets is a 2-mile boardwalk that winds through a marsh wildlife refuge near the lodge. During several exploratory walks we encountered beavers, muskrats, a family of ducks, frogs, songbirds and geese. Even though it’s just off the Trautman Nature Center, the thick woods and lush wetlands give you a real feeling of seclusion and peace. Birding is a popular attraction.

Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio
Multipurpose trail near the public beach

The park sits just off the Lake Erie shore, and there are bicycle trails that lead around an inland lake and along the lake and a small marina. Rent a bicycle at the lodge for a few dollars. Better yet, bring your own.

Another star of the park is the Maumee Bay Golf Course, which covers 1,850 acres of protected wetlands and follows Ohio’s beautiful north coast. Our experience has shown that most state park lodge golf courses are fairly average. That’s not the case at Maumee Bay, because of the involvement of Toledo native Arthur Hills.

Hills is one of the top golf course architects in the country. He laid out the Maumee Bay course in 1991 in the style of a Scottish links course. While it may not be a true links course, it’s designed in that style, and frankly, anything that Hills work on – think the Longaberger course near Newark – is top notch.

Not that the other state park lodge courses are haphazardly thrown together – legendary architect Jack Kidwell designed most of them in the late ’60s and early ’70s. But Maumee Bay’s course has received national acclaim and is recognized by some as a top-five Ohio public course.

Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio
Billiards with dad

The park has a 120-room lodge and two dozen cabins that can sleep up to 12. The rooms and some of the common spaces could use some updating, but we found the lodge to be really enjoyable. There’s an indoor pool, a game room, a children’s play area, racquetball and wallyball courts, and several board games to play.

A snack bar made some great fries and dogs, and the recently updated bar was really fun. But the better dining experience is a full-service restaurant called Water’s Edge, which has offered an improved, more-upscale menu since U.S. Hotel and Resort Management took over management of most of the state park lodges in 2018.

Maumee Bay Lodge: Find a coastal getaway in Northwest Ohio
Paddle boats on inland lake

Outside, there’s a lot to do. First, there’s the beach, as the park does lie along Lake Erie. We would recommend checking with park personnel if you want to swim in the lake. The 57-acre in-shore lake has its own beach and is fine for swimming, canoeing, paddle-boating and other non-motorized boating. (The lodge also offers an outdoor swimming pool.)

Being a state park, there also are opportunities to fish, plenty of hiking trails and sports courts on premises, as well as an amphitheater. The nature center has a research laboratory and offers interactive displays, an auditorium and places to view wildlife outside.


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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.

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Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

As Mike and Rosie got ready for their annual “daddy-daughter dance,” Max and I bundled up in our winter coats and boots. It was time for our first “mommy-son fitness challenge.” Sure, it doesn’t roll off the tongue as easy as a daddy-daughter dance, but it was my excuse to get us outdoors to spend some quality time together.

Our destination was the Rotary Obstacle Course at the Scioto Audubon Metro Park, a 120-acre urban playground along the banks of the Scioto River that offers a panoramic view of the nearby Columbus skyline.

The obstacle course, which opened in 2013, is free to the public and features a quarter-mile running track and nine challenges including a tire run, tunnel crawl, cargo climb, balance beams, belly crawl, monkey bars, over-and-under log obstacle, 8-foot wall and log run.

Ready. Set. Go!

1. Tire Run & Flip

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Max and I raced through the first challenge, a tire run and flip. We skipped the flip part, which involved lifting and flipping an oversized tire end over end, and went straight for the flip, high-stepping it through rows of car tires laid out in pairs. I gleefully bested Max in this fun, but tiring, test. Wendy: 1; Max: 0

2. Tunnel Crawl

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Next came a tunnel crawl, which reminded me of exploring water pipes as a kid. A layer of ice inside the tunnels made this challenge extra demanding. Max’s small frame and agility gave him an edge, allowing him to snake to the finish with ease. Wendy: 1; Max: 1

3. Cargo Climb

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Channeling his inner Spiderman, Max zipped to the top of the cargo climb challenge. But maneuvering over the top proved difficult, as a fear of heights and an uncertainty to go feet first down the backside overcame him. I gave up the fight momentarily as Max mustered through his apprehensions, making him the real winner on the ropes. Wendy: 1; Max: 2

4. Balance Beam

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

The balance beam proved harder than it looked. Max and I encouraged each other to stay the course. We learned that if we briskly walked across the beam and kept our eyes focused on the end of the log, versus staring at our feet, we’d succeed with ease. Tie! Wendy: 2; Max: 3

5. Belly Crawl

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Max effortlessly crawled on his elbows and knees under a web of connected ropes. I dug my hands into the sand and tried to pull my body through the challenge but didn’t budge. Pulling my own body weight from such a position wasn’t happening. Max won this one, belly down. Wendy: 2; Max: 4

6. Monkey Bars

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

Neither one of us was ever particularly good at swinging arm by arm across a series of bars, especially when the bars are ice-cold. We gave this challenge an honest effort, but finally decided it drove us bananas and gave up. No winner!

7. Over/Under

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

This challenge involved maneuvering under and over a series of elevated logs. Easy enough. But Max’s dexterity got him through in no time, leaving me gasping in the wood chips. Wendy: 2; Max: 5

8. Wall Climb

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

The wall climb didn’t make sense at first glance. There are two options to scale – a high wall and a low wall. We both went for the low option, pulling our bodies over the side, as if pulling our bodies out of a pool. This seemed easy, but I’ll give Max the edge on this one, since the small wall probably still seemed tall to him. Wendy: 2; Max: 5

9. Log Run

Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course: Test your athleticism at Scioto Audubon’s free, outdoor fitness challenge

This challenge involves simply running over a pile of logs. I suppose the skill is besting your opponent with choosing a better route. Of all the challenges, this one had me worried about slipping and breaking my leg the most. Both Max and I equally completed this one without breaking a bone. Tie!

Final score: Wendy: 3; Max: 6

Challenge yourself at the Columbus Rotary Obstacle Course, and for extra fun, be sure to visit the 18,000 square-foot Grange Insurance Audubon Center, and check out the onsite 35-foot-high fiberglass climbing wall, playground, and bocce and volleyball courts.

Learn more about the Scioto Audubon Metro Park.


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Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Discover Ohio’s most fertile fossil field


Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field It’s the middle of August, and I’m in the middle of a field, sun blazing overhead, sweat dripping down my back.

“Let’s pretend we’re paleontologists at the Mammoth Site in South Dakota,” I say to Rosie and Max, who are with me at Caesar Creek State Park in Waynesville, Ohio, an hour southwest of Columbus.

Although we’re far from South Dakota, where the kids once watched paleontologists delicately unearth woolly mammoth fossils at an excavation site, the game doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

We find fossil after fossil at the Caesar Creek Spillway, a swath of land that spans several football fields and contains some of the best opportunities for fossil finding in Ohio.

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil fieldThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the spillway and adjacent Caesar Creek Lake in the early 1970s to control flooding in the area. Doing so unveiled a layer of fossils that date back hundreds of thousands of years when Ohio was under water and near the equator.

Many fossils here resemble shells and coral, remnants of creatures that lived long ago on a large continent called Laurentia. Over time, specimens became sandwiched between layers of earth and formed fossils.

The spillway is open to explore any time of the year, but you’ll need to obtain a free permit first if you’d like to search for fossils. You do so at the Caesar Creek Lake Visitor Center, just north of the spillway. There, ask for a fossil-hunting permit and a copy of the “Common Fossils of Caesar Creek Lake” pamphlet.

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil fieldAn employee will go over the ground rules, which basically are not to use any tools to dig for fossils or to break them apart, and not to take any fossils home that are larger than your fist.

We see signs reminding us not to climb on rock embankments. They’re steep, and the rocks are slippery and sharp. We amble through the open field, eyes fixed on the ground. I pick up a rock that resembles a cone. It’s smooth and pointy. I hand it to Max, who adds it to a collection in his pocket.

We grow thirsty as we hang out in the sun. We head to the nearby town of Waynesville. It’s one of the more picturesque small towns you’ll encounter in the Buckeye State, with rows of beautiful old homes, some of them set up as businesses including antique stores, eateries and candy shops. It’s also home of the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, held annually on the second weekend in October.

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil fieldWe enjoy lunch at the Hammel House, a bed and breakfast that dates to 1799 and happens to be one of the most haunted buildings in Ohio. We learn that President Martin Van Buren and Charles Dickens have stayed here. We also learn it’s a pet-friendly establishment, which is perfect because we’ve brought along my brother’s dog, Biscuit. (If you have a dog, also check out the Pretty Pooch Boutique, which offers a large selection of cute dog outfits.)

Caesar Creek State Park is located at 8570 E. State Route 73, Waynesville, Ohio. Learn more.

The Caesar Creek Lake Visitor Center is located at 4020 N. Clarksville Rd., Waynesville, Ohio. Hours are 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Friday; and 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.


Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

Caesar Creek State Park; Discover Ohio's most fertile fossil field

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Sampling of central Ohio skateparks: Build confidence on wheels at innovative, concrete courses

Build confidence on wheels at innovative, concrete courses


When I was a teen in the 1980s, it was common to see skateboarders cruising cityscapes, sliding down handrails and ollying over curbs like Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

Nowadays these rolling renegades are more likely to be found in designated skate parks, practicing their kick flips and nose slides on concrete landscapes with obstacles that resemble stairways, benches and drained pools.

We recently investigated four such parks in central Ohio, and found them to be surprisingly fun and welcoming to newbies on roller skates.

We also learned they’re not strictly for skateboards and skates, as posted signs proclaimed. Guests on scooters and bikes also glided in and out without objection.

Other rules at the self-policed parks include no loud music, alcohol, graffiti or profanity, although we heard swear words frequently flying from those who bailed tricks.

Falling is pretty much guaranteed. The surfaces are slick and the features are downright challenging on any mode of transportation. For this reason, we highly recommend wearing a helmet and knee, elbow and wrist pads.

The parks below are open to all ages and skill levels. They’re free to use and open from dawn to dusk.

Coffman Skate Park
6565 Commerce Pkwy., Dublin, Ohio 43017
Highlights: Designed and constructed by Spohn Ranch with input from local skate enthusiasts. Opened in 2016, the 14,000 square-foot park features a neat wave structure, stairs, handrails, benches and nighttime lights.

Coffman Skate Park

Coffman Skate Park

Grove City Skate Park
3728 Hoover Rd., Grove City, Ohio 43123
Highlights: Opened in 2006, this 11,000-square-foot, concrete park features bowls, rails, ramps and boxes.

Grove City Skate Park

Grove City Skate Park

Adventure Park
260 Adventure Park Dr., Powell, Ohio 43065
Highlights: Designed by Team Pain, this 15,000-square-foot, concrete park features a realistic-looking underground swimming pool with tile edging, mounds and street obstacles.

Sampling of central Ohio skateparks: Build confidence on wheels at innovative, concrete courses

Adventure Park

Adventure Park

Winding Adventures Skate Park
600 W. Wilson Bridge Rd., Worthington, Ohio 43085
Highlights: Opened in 2001, this 6,000-square-foot concrete park is nestled alongside the Olentangy Trail. Operated by the City of Worthington Parks and Recreation Department, it features a bowl, quarter-pipe, ramps, steel handrails and a pyramid.

Winding Adventures Skate Park

Winding Adventures Skate Park

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Head to the beach before summer’s end


Great lakes in Ohio: Head to the beach before summer's endThe outdoor swimming season in Ohio is shorter than a pair of men’s Speedos, spanning three months from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

As a kid it seemed an eternity, probably because I spent so much time in our pond, swimming with toe-nibbling bluegill and through slimy algae. It was a rite of passage growing up on a farm in northeastern Ohio.

In July, the kids and I were invited to a friend’s pond in Canal Winchester. This fun outing got me wondering where else could we go for a cool lake swim in the Buckeye State.

Great lakes in Ohio: Head to the beach before summer's endThrough scouring the Internet, I learned that swimming is welcomed in designated areas at many of the Ohio State Parks with lakes and on Lake Erie, and it’s free to enter state park beaches. I also learned that there are many other beaches throughout the state, some of which require an entry fee.

Before you set out, be sure to check water quality advisories, such as the Ohio Department of Health’s BeachGuard.

Below is a sampling of swimming sites in Ohio.

Alum Creek State Park
3305 S. Old State Rd., Delaware, Ohio 4301
Highlights: 3,387-acre lake with 3,000-foot beach, bathhouse, concessions, sand volleyball courts, disc golf

Atwood Lake Park
9500 Lakeview Rd. NE, Mineral City, Ohio 44656
Highlights: 2,460-acre lake with beach, inflatable beach toys, concessions, fishing pier

Conneaut Township Park
480 Lake Rd, Conneaut, OH 44030
Highlights: Sandy beach, concessions, picnic area, playground, shuffleboard, boardwalk, gazebo, and basketball, volleyball, tennis and bocce courts

Cowan Lake State Park
1750 Osborn Rd., Wilmington, Ohio 45177
Highlights: 1,000-foot beach, bathhouse, bike rental, picnic areas

Deer Creek State Park
20635 State Park Rd. 20, Mt. Sterling, Ohio 43143
Highlights: 1,700-foot beach, boat-swim area in cove, picnic tables, grills

Delaware State Park
5202 US Route 23 North, Delaware, Ohio 43015
Highlights: 1,300-acre lake with 800-foot beach, bathhouse, concessions, disc golf

Euclid Beach Park
16301 Lakeshore Blvd., Cleveland, Ohio 44110
Highlights: Former site of Euclid Beach Amusement Park, 650-foot beach, picnic area, observation pier for bird and butterfly watching, boardwalk

Edgewater Park
6500 Cleveland Memorial Shoreway, Cleveland, Ohio 44102
Highlights: 2,400-foot beach, dog-friendly, cabana rental, volleyball, concession stands, panoramic views of downtown Cleveland

Fairport Harbor Lakefront Park
301 Huntington Beach Dr., Fairport Harbor, Ohio 44077
Highlights: Beach along shores of Lake Erie, concessions, kayak rentals, boardwalk

Grand Lake St. Marys State Park
834 Edgewater Dr., St. Marys, Ohio 45885
Highlights: Four public beaches, swimming areas for boaters, miniature golf course, bicycle rental

Guilford Lake State Park
6141 Clewell Dr., Lisbon, Ohio 44432
Highlights: 600-foot beach, bathhouse, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits

Headlands Beach State Park
9601 Headlands Rd., Mentor, Ohio 44060
Highlights: Ohio’s largest natural sand beach, scenic picnic area

Huntington Beach
400 Bryson Ln., Bay Village, OH 44140
Highlights: Designated Blue Wave Certified beach by the Clean Beaches Council, Mitchell’s Ice Cream, near Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

Indian Lake State Park
13156 State Route 235 N, Lakeview, Ohio 43331
Highlights: 5,800-acre lake with two public beaches, picnic shelters

Kelleys Island State Park
920 Division St., Kelleys Island, Ohio 43438
Highlights: 100-foot beach, picnic area, near Glacial Grooves State Memorial

Lakeview Park
1800 West Erie Ave., Lorain, Ohio 44052
Highlights: Beach along Lake Erie, playground, rose garden, Lorain Lighthouse, spectacular sunsets, lawn bowling, beach volleyball, picnic facilities

Lake Hope State Park
27331 State Route 278, McArthur, Ohio 45651
Highlights: 120-acre lake with 600-foot beach near dam, sun deck, concessions

Madison Lake State Park
4860 E. Park Dr., London, Ohio 43140
Highlights: 300-foot beach, dog swim area, basketball courts on beach

Maumee Bay State Park
1400 State Park Rd., Oregon, Ohio 43616
Highlights: Two sand beaches on Lake Erie shore, concessions, bathhouse, lakeside amphitheater, boardwalk, bike rental, Scottish links golf course, Trautman Nature Center

Mosquito Creek Lake Park
1439 State Route 305, Cortland, Ohio 44410
Highlights: 600-foot beach, butterfly garden, summer concerts, bike rental, archery range, disc golf

Nickel Plate Beach
1 Nickel Plate Dr., Huron, Ohio 44839
Highlights: Lakefront stretch of sandy beach, ping-pong table, corn hole, beach volleyball, concessions, playground, picnic facilities

Tappan Lake
84000 Mallarnee Rd., Deersville, OH 44693
Highlights: 2,350-acre lake with beach, slides, concessions, paddle boat rentals

Villa Angela Park
Park Rd., Cleveland, Ohio 44119
Highlights: 900-foot beach, boardwalk, fishing pier

Wallace Lake
213 Prospect St., Berea, Ohio 44017
Highlights: 17.6-acre old quarry, sandy beach

Senecaville Lake Park
22172 Park Rd., Senecaville, Ohio 43780
Highlights: 3,550-acre lake with public beach, inflatable beach toys, concessions, beach volleyball, playground

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Creature comforts found beside Ohio’s largest forest


Lodge love. That’s what we call the feeling you get when you enter an inviting, well-worn lodge.

We felt this vibe when visiting the Shawnee Lodge & Conference Center in West Portsmouth, Ohio. It was our first visit to an Ohio state park lodge. It’s one of eight state lodges in Ohio. We’re now curious to visit all of them at our own pace. Heck, we liked this one enough to visit it twice – once last fall and again over spring break.

What quantifies lodge love?

First, you’ve got to have a cavernous lobby that somehow connects to the nature of the area. Shawnee has exposed wooden beams, oversized couches and lots of references to the Native Americans who once called the area home. There also are big tables for playing board games that are available at the registration counter.

You also need plenty of outdoor pursuits. Shawnee Lodge offers access to the largest state forest in Ohio. Known as “Ohio’s Little Smokies,” the Shawnee State Forest spans more than 63,000 acres and includes 60 miles of hiking and bridle trails.

Returning to comfortable lodging that’s slightly rustic, yet modern and practical at the same time, is essential if you don’t like to camp.

Our rooms had a set of bunk beds, chunky log furniture and sensible toiletries including pumps of shampoo, conditioner and shower gel.

A good lodge also needs quality comfort food in a setting that offers a panoramic view of the property.

The Smokehouse restaurant at Shawnee offers tasty brisket and other barbecued meats, made-from-scratch soups and a variety of homey classics such as baked spaghetti and meatballs, and liver and onions.

Lively lodges have extra amenities. Shawnee offers two swimming pools, Frisbee golf, canoeing, nearby horseback riding and an arcade.

“Some of our customers are regulars since the lodge opened in 1973,” said Lisa Moran, sales and catering manager. “They like that it’s a central location, so we get a lot of people from out of state. I think it’s all the back-to-nature activities we offer.”

“We actually get the kids to put their phones down.”

What’s not to love about that?

Learn more about the Shawnee Lodge & Conference Center.


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South Drive-In Theatre: As outdoor movie screens lose steam across nation, South High reels on

As outdoor screens lose steam across nation, South High cinema reels on


I’ll never forget my first drive-in theater experience. It was the summer of 1978, and my siblings took me to see a double feature of “Jaws 2” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” at the 42 Drive-In in Brunswick, Ohio.

South Drive-In Theatre: As outdoor movie screens lose steam across nation, South High reels onI was 8 years old, and I was terrified. But I loved it and returned again and again until the old theater eventually closed, along with so many others like it across the country.

According to DriveInMove.com, there are just 330 drive-in theaters in operation in the United States, two dozen of which are in Ohio. During the happy days of the 1950s, the site says, there were nearly 4,000 such theaters.

The sole outdoor cinema in Columbus is the South Drive-in Theater, at 3050 S. High St., which opened in 1950. Customers here have a choice between two screens, each offering a double feature, one of which seems more geared toward families.

In July, my daughter and I saw a first-run showing of “Hotel Transylvania 3” and “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.”

We arrived 30 minutes before the start of the first movie and found a decent parking spot in the third row. Early birds lined the coveted front row, savoring unobstructed views and a lush lawn, where kids played in the waning shadow of the big screen.

South Drive-In Theatre: As outdoor movie screens lose steam across nation, South High reels onWe enjoyed making a comfy spot in the back of our SUV and watching the movies through the hatchback.

My daughter liked what she called an “old-timey” feel, and I liked sharing a childhood tradition with her.

Another perk is that children ages 5 to 11 get in for $2, while kids ages 4 and younger are free.

Disappointments were expected and included latecomers with blinding headlights, inconsistent sound from the old speakers, wafting cigarette smoke and pesky mosquitos, despite our attempts to repel them with spray.

Speaking of bugs, the theater also hosts a giant flea market on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, from March through November. Arrive early for the best finds. Dealers begin setting up at 5 a.m. and most continue selling until 1 p.m.

Learn more about the South Drive-In Theatre. Find a drive-in theater near you at www.driveinmovie.com.

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