Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Get creative while socially distancing


Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy PramikSocial distancing may be our new normal during the coronavirus outbreak, but it doesn’t mean we need to stop having fun.

Folks in our Clintonville neighborhood have turned Walhalla Ravine, a road that meanders from Indianola Avenue to High Street, into a neat seek-and-find trail.

What’s being found? Dozens of small playthings that the local residents have hidden. You might find a small Batman hidden in the hollow of a fallen tree limb. Or a tiny owl peeking out from a stump. Or a smiling resin squirrel at the base of a tree.

It’s sort of a cross between geocaching and a scavenger hunt. It makes a great location for a walk even greater, and for us, reaffirmed our faith in our fellow neighbors in this anxious time. Plus, it’s a great diversion from being cooped up with our kids while we work at home.

Here are a few photos of the Walhalla Ravine miniatures. Does your neighborhood have any similar adventures?

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

Seek and find on Walhalla by Wendy Pramik

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23 engaging stops along St. Rt. 23 from Columbus to the Ohio River

23 engaging stops along St. Rt. 23 from Columbus to the Ohio River


With every twist and bend throughout southern Ohio’s Appalachian hills and valleys, St. Rte. 23 takes you past some of the best attractions, restaurants and shops in southern Ohio. Here are 23 engaging stops that’ll make the trip from Columbus to the Ohio River (and back) an alluring adventure.

PICKAWAY COUNTY

1. Learn quirky facts about the village of Ashville at Ohio’s Small-Town Museum. Check out the futuristic traffic light designed by a local inventor in the 1930s.

2. Pick your way through Pickaway County at a cornucopia of pick-your-own produce farms and roadside stands. Watch for blueberries and tomatoes in summer, and gourds and pumpkins in fall.

3. See pumpkins, parades and lots of people at the annual Circleville Pumpkin Show, featuring four days of free fun, beginning the third Wednesday in October.

4. Discover an entertainment legend at the Ted Lewis Museum in downtown Circleville. The early 20th-century jazz clarinetist was known for his top hat, cane and the remark, “Is everybody happy?”

Lindsey’s Bakery5. Savor a pumpkin doughnut every day of the year at Lindsey’s Bakery, home of the 400-pound pumpkin pie found annually at the Circleville Pumpkin Show.

ROSS COUNTY

6. Sit beneath the stars in Chillicothe as more than 100 “Tecumseh!” cast members tell the story of a legendary Shawnee leader’s struggles to defend his homeland during the late 1700s.

7. Stoke your sense of adventure by exploring Ross County’s five state parks. Follow hiking, biking and bridle paths, go boating and fishing, and stay in a cabin or tent and stargaze at night.

8. Visit the rustic landscape that inspired the Great Seal of the State of Ohio at the Adena Mansion & Gardens in Chillicothe. Stroll through the 1800’s mansion, once home to Ohio’s sixth governor, Thomas Washington.

9. Rekindle yesteryear inside dozens of antique shops on the Ross County Antique Trail. The treasure hunt meanders through Chillicothe, Bainbridge and Kingston.

10. Lose your head at Chillicothe’s Haunted Mountain, a family-friendly, Halloween experience that puts guests on a trail visited by the Headless Horseman.

11. Take yourself out to a Chillicothe Paints ballgame and feel the nostalgia of collegiate baseball in the 1954-built V.A. Memorial Stadium.

12. Enjoy a movie or live performance at Chillicothe’s Majestic Theatre, the oldest continuously operating theater in America. Built in 1853, it’s welcomed legends such as Bob Hope and Sophie Tucker.

13. Uncover the history behind the Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe, where visitors can find a dozen mounds and earthworks dating to A.D. 500 within a 21-mile radius.

14. Rediscover the vibrancy of downtown Chillicothe, Ohio’s first capital. Explore historic buildings, shop at independent boutiques and dine at local culinary standouts.

15. Experience the thrill of auto racing at Waverly’s Atomic Speedway, billed as “the fastest 3/8-mile dirt track in the country” that’s entertained fans for more than six decades.

16. Tune into Prussia Valley Dulcimers in Waverly for a major selection of acoustic instruments, including locally-crafted mountain dulcimers, guitars, banjos and Native American flutes.

17. Step into the Old West at Dogwood Pass, a replica town in Beaver complete with a saloon, jail, general store and many other tributes to the Wild West.

18. Reserve a spot on the U.S. Department of Energy’s popular, guided tour of a former uranium enrichment plant housed on more than 1,200 acres in Piketon.

19. Pop up a tent at a primitive site or sleep in an appointed cabin, at the 400-plus-acre Long’s Retreat Family Resort in Latham. Canoe or swim in a spring-fed lake or speed around the go-kart track.

SCIOTO COUNTY

Portsmouth by Wendy Pramik20. Reap the rewards of Main Street Portsmouth, a collaboration of independent business owners and community leaders who’ve both preserved and revitalized this historic city along the Ohio River.

21. Celebrate Independence Day in historic downtown Portsmouth with live music and an annual fireworks display that beautifully reflects upon the Ohio River.

22. View 2,000 years of history depicted on Portsmouth’s floodwall murals, from Native American earth mounds to “King of the Cowboys” actor Roy Rogers.

23. Attend a gallery opening or catch a musical show at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts on the campus of Shawnee State University in historic Portsmouth.

Portsmouth Floodwall by Wendy Pramik

Circleville Pumpkin Show

(This story, written by Wendy Pramik for Great Lakes Publishing, printed in the Ross County Visitors Guide.)

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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.

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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.

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Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

We often get so caught up in our daily lives here in the city that we forget we’re in the middle of a quite rural state.

If you’d like to get out of suburbia and see what it’s like to connect with domestic animals – and feel good about helping them in the process – we recommend a visit to Sunrise Sanctuary in Marysville.

As its name suggests, this is a sanctuary for domestic and farm animals that have been rescued from less-than-ideal living conditions. The variety of animals, and their placid natures, surprised and pleased our whole family.

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in MarysvilleSunrise Sanctuary, 35 miles northwest of Columbus, is a permanent refuge for more than 170 formerly abused, neglected, disabled, and unwanted farm and companion animals. The menagerie includes rats, bunnies, cats, dogs, pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, cows, horses, donkeys, chickens, ducks, peacocks and turkeys.

We spent a few hours recently walking around in the grass and mud, sitting in hay and meeting farm animals, like Woody and Baby, a one-horned goat and a sunbeam-loving pig.

Mike and Max were happy to pet a turkey and play with several cats that roamed the rustic scene.

The non-profit charity was founded in 2001 by Mindy Mallett as a place where animals can be loved and treated with dignity. Animals roam free, eat regular meals, slop through mud puddles and get lots of affection.

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in MarysvilleIt’s also a place where the public can connect with animals on their terms without asking for anything in return. No rides. No milk. No eggs. No meat. No leather. But you can take your photo with them.

The farm is run by volunteers, and it relies heavily on monetary donations. One way to contribute is by visiting during Open Barn Days, when the public is invited to visit for a small fee that goes toward the care of the animals.

Self-guided tours are held from 1-3 p.m. on select Saturdays, and go on rain or shine. Attendees must sign up in advance via its website, and attendance is kept to a minimum to prevent overcrowding.

Learn more about Sunrise Sanctuary.

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

Sunrise Sanctuary: Hit it off with a hog at this refuge for neglected farm animals in Marysville

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Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

The Hocking Hills area in southeastern Ohio offers more than a picturesque walk through the woods. It affords unique opportunities to explore every angle of these stunning surroundings while providing some welcome surprises.

During a trip to the Hocking Hills and the nearby regions, you can hear a beaver slapping its tail on the water as you kayak on a lake under a rising moon. You can spy the majesty of the Appalachians as you glide through a canopy of trees on a zip line. You can even observe the rings of Saturn – 746 million miles up – at an astronomy park where professional and amateur astronomers converge.

We experienced a handful of rewarding outdoor pursuits during a summer weekend adventure in the Hocking Hills, about an hour’s drive from Columbus. Here’s a sampling of what you can do, too.

• Kayak Under the Moon

On a warm evening I eased into a kayak at the nearly 3,000-acre Lake Hope in McArthur. Lake Hope State Park lies within the Zaleski State Forest, about 20 miles southeast of Hocking Hills.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioI teamed up with Mimi Morrison, owner of Touch the Earth Adventures. She inspired me to unwind and tune into the environment. As we glided across the lake, Morrison indicated the lack of mosquitos thanks to the overhead yellow warblers. I quieted and listened to their sweet whistling as the full moon rose over the horizon.

Ramp up the experience by visiting the nature center at Lake Hope State Park to hand-feed hummingbirds during the summer months.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioAt specified times park rangers remove the hung feeders and hand out plastic planter plugs full of sugar water. Each has a red pipe cleaner attached to attract the little birds, as well as a hole for them to poke their pointy beaks into the liquid.

I felt a thrill as bird after bird visited my feeder. As they hovered over my hand, I admired their delicate features and their vibrant blue and green feathers.

• Zip Through the Trees

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

You can get in touch (literally) with the trees at Hocking Hills Canopy Tours in Rockbridge, which offers several zip-lining adventures. Max and I hopped on the Canopy Tour. For about three hours we zipped between trees and covered several sky bridges.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioThe company offers various other tours, including some shorter ones, as well as Segway adventures and hikes. What impressed me was the attention to detail at the departure destination. The touring company made sure to give us a training session before we embarked. They follow Association for Challenge Course Technology standards, so we always felt safe while we got our thrills.

Along the way, our guides pointed out interesting trees, such as the American sycamore, with bark that resembles military camouflage, and the indigenous pawpaw tree, which produces a papaya-like fruit. Our guides also took our pictures as we zipped through the course, making it unnecessary to carry mobile phones or cameras.

Ramp up the experience by spending the night in a treehouse at Among the Trees Lodging, only about a mile or so away from the zip lining adventure. We stayed in the Buckeye Barn Treehouse, meticulously constructed from reclaimed barn wood.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioThe cozy confines sleeps four and contains everything for a comfortable stay, including a hot tub. You enter the treehouse via a swaying ramp that’s illuminated at night. The height provides a unique perspective of the woods. Mike liked hanging out beneath the treehouse, studying its impressive construction.

• Gaze at the Rings of Saturn

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern Ohio

We visited John Glenn Astronomy Park in Logan, a short drive from Hocking Hills State Park, joining dozens of others gathering on a warm Friday evening. The crowd included expert and amateur astronomers and many inquisitive visitors like us.

The park, operated by a non-profit organization called Friends of the Hocking Hills State Park, is open Friday and Saturday nights at sunset from the beginning of March through early November. It doesn’t cost anything to visit.

We were invited to study the stars through several telescopes set up on a rectangular, paved surface. We caught a glimpse of the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter and the craters of our moon. As the night quickened, the views improved. The site’s main tool is a huge, 28-inch telescope in the rolling-roofed observatory. During our visit it was trained on the Crab Nebula.

Hocking Hills: Set a course for adventure in southeastern OhioRamp up the experience with dinner at Kindred Spirits, the new restaurant at the Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in Logan. Dining here is not roughing it. The food and surroundings are top-notch. Step up to the rooftop bar for a breath of fresh air, filtered through pretty flowers.

Learn more about the Hocking Hills area.

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Brown Pet Cemetery: Final resting place for animal pals is a doggone gem

Final resting place for animal pals is a doggone gem

Brown Pet Cemetery: Final resting place for animal pals is a doggone gem

“Faithful and loyal, patient and loving. Trust in soft eyes, forever adoring.” Those are the words etched on a tombstone at the Brown Pet Cemetery in Columbus, describing a passed-on pooch named Freckles, who lived a lifetime ago.

His grave is one of hundreds of final resting places for dogs, cats and other critters at the cemetery, founded in the 1920s by a local veterinarian named Walter Brown, and maintained by volunteers.

Brown Pet Cemetery: Final resting place for animal pals is a doggone gem

It’s located on Sawyer Road, across from the 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant and adjacent to John Glenn Columbus International Airport. The thunder of arriving planes is an intermittent reminder of the present as you become lost in the emotional epitaphs of the past.

“His bark resounds through hallo of light brushing the hem of the angel gown,” Freckles’ epitaph continues.

The cemetery is a special place, a forever resting home to a menagerie of departed animals whose masters have probably crossed the rainbow bridge themselves. Their names are a lesson in pop culture. There’s a grave for Tin-Tin who lived in the 1920s, the same time a German Shepherd named Rin-Tin-Tin graced the silver screen. There’s a dog named Rags who lived during the Great Depression. We also spied a grave for Teevee, a canine of the 1950s. 

Brown Pet Cemetery: Final resting place for animal pals is a doggone gem

The cemetery spans several acres and backs up to a ravine that overlooks Big Walnut Creek. We wandered for a while among the aging, chipped gravestones, marveling at the joy that all these dear departed friends must have given their masters for nearly a century.

Learn more about Brown Pet Cemetery.


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Hartman Rock Garden: Springfield back yard radiates with Depression-era folk art

Springfield back yard radiates with Depression-era folk art

Hartman Rock Garden: Springfield back yard radiates with Depression-era folk art

A monarch flutters through a window in a castle made of stones. It hovers over a village of miniature stone cabins and past three seated Indian chiefs made of clay while on its way to a patch of coneflowers.

The more I follow the butterfly, the more I see at the Hartman Rock Garden, a restored folk-art sensation that’s located in an otherwise typical back yard in Springfield, Ohio.

The stone sculptures, about 50 in all, are worth driving an hour west of Columbus to see. We did just that one summer afternoon, pairing our adventure with a couple of beers at Mother Stewart’s Brewing in Springfield, and a couple of ice cream cones at Young’s Jersey Dairy on the drive back to Columbus.

Hartman Rock Garden: Springfield back yard radiates with Depression-era folk art

The story of the Hartman Rock Garden begins in 1932, when a 48-year-old man named Ben Hartman got laid off from his job as a mold-maker during the Great Depression. Bored, the self-taught artist started shaping cement and hundreds of thousands of rocks into recognizable structures, like houses, churches and castles.

Some structures resemble famous landmarks, like the White House and Mount Vernon. Others are just pleasantly odd, such as a patriotic cactus with an eagle on top.

Ben worked on his rock garden for a dozen years before he passed away in 1944. His wife, Mary, looked after the garden for 53 years after his death, and even gave tours.

But when she died in 1997, the garden went into despair. Weeds grew. Wind, rain and snow eroded delicate features.

In 2008, the Wisconsin-based Kohler Foundation restored the garden and gifted it to a nonprofit organization called Friends of Hartman Rock Garden. The gesture was part of the plumbing product manufacturer’s longstanding commitment to folk architecture and art environments.

One walk along the garden’s path tells you the restoration was well worth it.

The Hartman Rock Garden is located at 1905 Russell Ave., Springfield, Ohio. It’s open daily, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.


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