Stretch your legs in Lancaster

The weekend road trip has become increasingly important to our family in 2020. By the time Saturday rolls around, we’re ready to stretch our legs away from what has become all-too-familiar surroundings.

We recently drove 40 minutes southeast of Columbus to Fairfield County, where we discovered a number of outdoor attractions that made the jaunt worthwhile. We spent about 30 minutes at each before moving on.

Lockville Canal Park, Carroll

This park packs some interesting features on eight small acres. Here, you’ll find a bright, red covered bridge and several stone remains from the Ohio & Erie Canal, which earned the park its name.

Fairfield County is home to more original covered bridges than anywhere else in the state, claiming 17 of Ohio’s 125. The Hartman No. 2 Bridge at the canal park was built in 1888 and moved to its current site in 1967. You can see more covered bridges on the Fairfield County Covered Bridge Trail.

Stebelton Park at Rock Mill, Lancaster

See a restored 1824 gristmill and 1901-built covered bridge at this 4-acre park that overlooks a gorge with a waterfall on the Hocking River. The mill is open for tours from May through October, but it was closed during our visit. You can still stop and take a look.

If you’re up for a craft beer with a helping of scenery, check out the nearby Rockmill Brewery, located on a former horse farm.

Rising Park, Lancaster

Head to Rising Park and climb 250 feet to the top of Mount Pleasant, a sandstone buff that overlooks the city of Lancaster. While the long, uphill trek can be tiring, it’s a perfect spot for sunsets, and you can get a great view of the Fairfield County Fairgrounds. There’s also a cave called “Devil’s Kitchen,” which we didn’t check out.

The park also has a lake, tennis courts and a playground.

Miller Skatepark, Lancaster

Built in 1999, this wooden skatepark contains ramps, handrails and a quarter pipe. We saw boys and girls, young and old, on skateboards, scooters and bikes. “This is one of the best skateboard parks in Ohio,” claimed our son, who said he preferred the smoothness of the wood features over concrete ones.

O’Huids Gaelic Pub, Lancaster

Have lunch at one of many independent restaurants, such as O’Huids Gaelic Pub, which opened in 2017 in downtown Lancaster.

“We’re not a paper shamrock pub, we’re a true Irish pub,” says Nicolous Hood, who co-owns the restaurant with his parents and brother. “Our lineage goes back to Ireland on my grandfather’s side and Scotland on my grandmother’s side.”

O’Huids serves traditional Irish and Gaelic grub, such as fish and chips with a side minted peas, as well as usual kids’ fare including chicken tenders and grilled cheese.

Atop Mount Pleasant

Hartman No. 2 Bridge

Lockville Canal Park

Merchant Logo Rock Mill Covered Bridge

Downtown Lancaster

Miller Skatepark

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Befriend the beasts that roam The Farm at Walnut Creek

Befriend the beasts that roam The Farm at Walnut Creek

Befriend the beasts that roam The Farm at Walnut CreekIf you’ve never had a moose stick his head through your open car window, don’t knock it. It’s fun to have a friend over for dinner.

We experienced up-close feeding frenzies of a few moose and many other newly found animal pals on a recent trip to The Farm at Walnut Creek, an animal sanctuary in the middle of Ohio’s Amish Country. The working farm is set on 120 rustic acres off County Road 114 in Sugarcreek, and it’s easy to get in on the action.

The main attraction is a 2.3-mile drive over the rolling hills of the farm. But a bucket or two (or more) of feed pellets for three bucks, and the animals will come to you for a snack.

And this isn’t just a few pigs and chickens – there are more than 500 animals here.

Befriend the beasts that roam The Farm at Walnut CreekWe were followed by an incredible range of critters that included the moose, bison, Fallow deer, an ostrich (with 14 chicks), aoudads, camels, donkeys, horses, potbellied pigs, llamas, zebras and several varieties of goats. They all buddied up when they found out we had food, with many sticking their heads inside the car for a treat.

As we neared the end of the road, we came upon a large fenced-in area that held several giraffes. Rosie and Max had great fun poking their heads through our sunroof and giving the giraffes a bite to eat.

At the end of our tour, one of the kind owners chatted with us, and another offered us cookies. We proceeded to drive through an area where we viewed several exotic birds before the kids demanded we drive through the exhibit and feed our friends again.

There’s much more to The Farm than the driving path, even though many of the amenities and attractions were closed that day because of the coronavirus. Here’s a sampling:

  • Wagon rides
  • Petting zoo
  • Horse barn
  • Blacksmith shop
  • Dairy barn
  • Milk house
  • Chicken house
  • Main house
  • Pavilion and playground

The Farm has special, seasonal events all year long. Whenever you visit, we highly recommend feeding the animals. Oh, and bring cash – The Farm does not accept credit or debit cards.

Befriend the beasts that roam The Farm at Walnut Creek
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Rock out! Paint stones, spread joy this summer by Wendy Pramik

Paint stones, spread joy this summer

Rock out! Paint stones, spread joy this summer by Wendy PramikLast summer while on vacation in the tiny northern community of Lakeside, Ohio, we took pleasure in the art of painting rocks. It seemed everyone up there was doing it to pass the time and adorn their cottage yards along the shores of Lake Erie. The playful rocks were everywhere, hiding in plain sight as avocados, lady bugs and SpongeBobs.

Back home in Columbus, we’ve been trying to find things for the kids to do as the coronavirus pandemic continues to limit travel and curb the opening of attractions. I thought we could have some fun painting rocks of our own. It’s an oddly therapeutic activity, transforming dull stones into whimsical creations.

It’s also fun to write inspirational messages on them, such as “you rock,” or “don’t take life for granite,” and hide the rocks in your neighborhood for others to find.

Painting rocks is easy. We found stones that had at least one flat side worked well. We also collected pieces of slate from a nearby stream. If rocks are in short supply, you can always buy some from a landscaping store.

Get some paint — acrylic works best — and a set of brushes of varying sizes. Permanent markers and paint pens are good for writing messages. It’s not necessary, but you can apply a base coat first and then seal your work with a coat of gloss.

Up your game by joining a rock-hiding group. Here are four, including three in the Buckeye State: the Kindness Rock ProjectNortheast Ohio Rocks, Ohio Rocks Rule and Columbus Ohio Rocks.

Participants paint rocks and hide them. If you find a rock, take a photo of it and post it on the groups’ Facebook page, then re-hide the rock. You can use hashtags to follow the whereabouts of favorite rocks.

Rock on!

Rock out! Paint stones, spread joy this summer by Wendy Pramik

Rock out! Paint stones, spread joy this summer by Wendy Pramik

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Seek out a sunset this summer

Stop and watch a sunset this summer

Stop and watch the sun set this summerOn vacations to the beach, watching a sunrise or sunset is not to be missed. At home, we often forget how cathartic this daily ritual can be.

But our limited travel during the global pandemic led to us rediscovering our neighborhood while on walks and appreciating everyday things that we’d otherwise overlook, including watching the sunset.

We can’t fully see the setting sun from where we live, as the view is obstructed by trees. So we sought out a location with more space – Whetstone Park – and planted ourselves near an open field.

We were surprised to see others doing the same thing. Some people made comfortable spots in their hatchbacks and tucked themselves under blankets. Others propped portable chairs in the field or crouched in the grass, facing west.

We’ve begun to note when the sun is setting by using weather apps. Then, we go somewhere with enough space to view it. We arrive 30 minutes before the sun goes down to watch the sky change color and to appreciate the light on the clouds.

Find a spot where you can view the sunset. Below are some spacious central Ohio locations based on sunset photos posted on Instagram:

Here are some weather conditions that may predict an especially pretty sunset:

  • Low humidity
  • Partial cloud coverage
  • Prior rainfall, up to several hours before sunset
  • Good visibility
  • Low wind

Stop and watch the sun set this summer

Stop and watch the sun set this summer

Stop and watch the sun set this summer

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Chalk art by Wendy Pramik

Dabble in public art this summer

Chalk art by Wendy PramikArt can help kids process their thoughts and emotions, or simply get them engaged a bit more during the summer.

Our kids took to the driveway with a pail of chalk sticks, after seeing there’d be a stretch of sunny days. They spent hours turning a section of the drive into a patchwork of colorful shapes that now delights others who walk by.

Preparation is easy. You can buy basic chalk and other newfangled chalk-application devices such as powdered chalk in a bottle. You add water and apply with a spongy roller. Other products allow you to spray on liquid chalk, but we found this technique didn’t work so well. Basic chunky chalks worked best.

Our kids used masking tape to define the boundaries of their design. They also used tape to create a geometric pattern that when finished resembled stained glass.

Up your game by encouraging others on your street to do the same and have a neighborhood gallery. It’d provide a great backdrop for an evening stroll.

Chalk art by Wendy Pramik

Chalk art by Wendy Pramik

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Give into a kid-crazy idea this summer

If you’re like us, you’ve been sitting at home for months with nowhere to go during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Sure, you probably had to get your kids through school, becoming intimately familiar with the scientific method, ancient Greek civilization or how to calculate the volume of a pyramid.

Now that school’s out, you might be spending more time with your kids than expected, as many summer camps and other activities have been put on hold or severely curtailed.

Your summer task is to get your kids off their electronic devices and outside in the fresh air. With that in mind, we thought we’d post a variety of ideas that give into the creative minds of children and keep your families socially distanced and physically active during this summer of uncertainty.

As an example, we let our kids fill their trampoline with ice cubes just to see what would happen. The result? Squeals of laughter and more creative ideas, such as adding dish soap to make a slip-and-slide, and an underneath water feature via the garden hose.

Thankfully, no one was hurt with these shenanigans, but it did get us thinking differently about what constitutes a family adventure. Sometimes you don’t need to leave your own back yard to have an epic time.

On second thought, this just might end up being the most adventuresome summer after all.

Stay tuned for more kid-inspired adventures!

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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.


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.


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.


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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