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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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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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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Find cold-weather fun in Mansfield area

We’re on top of a snowy mountain, poised to plummet 1,100 feet down on a rubber inner tube.

With a push, we’re off and rushing toward the bottom, laughing all the way.

It’s Ohio, where the weather can fluctuate like the wind. Today it’s sunny and 50 degrees. But here, at the family-owned Snow Trails resort, we’re surrounded by snow.

Winter is no reason to hibernate in Columbus. We ventured to the Mansfield area, about 45 minutes north of Columbus, for a weekend adventure. We slid down the slippery slope, sought out waterfalls in a hemlock-filled forest and took a spin around a whimsical carrousel in a historic downtown.

Weather in these parts doesn’t hinder the experience. It only enhances it.

Snow Trails

Feel adrenaline of racing down a hill at this resort and lodge, which opened in 1961 and features skiing, snowboarding and tubing. If it’s not snowing, the owners of Snow Trails create it and spread it around using high-powered machines on the slopes.

Snow Trails offers six tubing lanes and a carpeted conveyor belt to transport you up the hill. Go Glow Tubing after dark Thursday through Sunday, when you can slide under a series of illuminated arches.

Warm up by a fire pit and grab some snacks indoors. No experience is needed, and all ages are welcomed, they told us. It’s fun to slide solo or grab onto your mates to form a chain.

We paid $25 per person for two hours of tubing, which was plenty of time. The cost included the use of a tube and transportation on the conveyor belt. Arrive early to avoid evening crowds.

Snow Trails is located at 3100 Possum Run Rd., Mansfield, and is open December through March. Learn more and make a reservation.

Mohican State Park

We pulled into the Mohican Lodge and Conference Center just in time for some games in the lively lobby before dinner. Mike taught Max how to play pool while Rosie and I played ping pong. Others played board games or sat in chairs that formed a circle around a fireplace.

The lodge is rustic and could use a facelift in some places. But what it lacked in style, it made up in its outdoor surroundings.

It’s situated in the 1,110-acre Mohican State Park, which is adjacent to the 4,525-acre Mohican-Memorial State Forest. Peaks and valleys formed here 12,000 years ago by glaciers define what is known today as the Clear Fork Gorge. This land was once explored by the Delaware Indians and frequented by John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, a pioneer who introduced apple trees to Ohio and neighboring states.

Mike and I set out on our own to explore the outdoors. We started at Pleasant Hill Lake, where we walked on a bridge at the Pleasant Hill Dam. We then took a two-mile looping path to investigate two waterfalls that jutted from sandstone cliffs. The Little Lyons Falls is visible from an overhead bridge. It drops 25 feet into a narrow gorge. The 80-foot Big Lyons Falls is more impressive and viewed beneath in a recess cave. We also visited a covered bridge that spans the Clear Fork River.

Mohican Lodge and Conference Center is located at 1098 Ashland County Rd., 3006, Perrysville, Ohio. Learn more.

Richland Carrousel Park

To a child, the only thrill greater than seeing an old-fashioned carousel is climbing aboard one of its shiny, majestic creatures. One of the best places for children of all ages to do just that in Ohio is in Mansfield.

The city pays homage to the amusement-park ride in its downtown Carrousel District, which features several blocks of unique shops and restaurants in beautifully restored Victorian buildings. There are restaurants on every block, seemingly. We enjoyed some good burgers and a couple pints of Guinness at Uncle John’s Place on Main Street.

At the heart of the area is the Richland Carrousel Park, where guests can ride an old-fashioned roundabout for $1. It has 52 animal figures, each carved and painted in a 1900s style by Carousel Works in Mansfield. Among the menagerie are 30 horses, several bears and ostriches, a zebra and a goat. The company also restored the rounding boards, mirrors and mural frames, which depict past and present attractions in Mansfield.

The ride is housed in a heated pavilion that contains the carousel and a gift shop featuring musical figurines and other playful items.

The Richland Carrousel Park is located at 75 N. Main St., Mansfield. It’s open seven days a week, except major holidays. Learn more.

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Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Lancaster’s history is steeped in creativity. It’s the home of the Anchor Hocking Company, once the world’s largest maker of glass tableware. Today, artistic enclaves can be found throughout “Glass City,” near the Hocking River, just 30 minutes southeast of Columbus.

We found a bounty of opportunities for budding artists at businesses along Main Street in Lancaster’s historic downtown. We painted ornaments in a paint-your-own pottery studio, gazed at glass in a museum and toured an art exhibit at another. In between, we admired the unusual murals that decorate the alleys and parking lots.

All the while, we appreciated a slower pace and individualized attention at the businesses we visited, not to mention an absence of traffic and ease of parking.

Art & Clay On Main
150 W. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

We started our adventure at Art & Clay On Main, located within a cheery, sea-foam green building in the heart of downtown. Here, you can order an espresso from the onsite Square Seven Coffee House and pick a piece of unpainted pottery from the shelves.

There’s no need to make a reservation, and the process is simple. We arrived at Christmastime, so among the plates, bowls, mugs and vases, we chose ornaments.

We filled our plastic palettes with paints, then sat at paint-splattered tables. The kids went freestyle with their designs, while I examined finished pieces for inspiration.

I took my time painting a cupcake design, enjoying the serenity of smearing on layer upon layer of dull glaze. An instructor helped me add bits of color that would later resemble sprinkles.

I saw on the calendar that local musicians periodically play for patrons and thought what a joy it would be to paint and listen to live music.

We left our pieces on a tray to be glazed and fired, and retrieved them the following Saturday, pleased as punch.

Ohio Glass Museum and Glass Blowing Studio
124 W. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

Get a handle on Lancaster’s glass-making history and even blow glass yourself at the Ohio Glass Museum and Glass Blowing Studio, one of four museums in the downtown area. Others are the Sherman House Museum, Georgian Museum and the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, mentioned below.

I visited the glass museum on my own, after retrieving our family’s painted pottery next door, thinking that maybe a place that’s protecting precious glass isn’t the best spot for children. Au contraire!

The glass museum is a wondrous setting, filled with colorful glass collections that pay homage to Ohio’s once-booming glass industry. They include examples of vaseline glass, which contains uranium and glows under a black light. What kid wouldn’t like that?

I also learned that abundant supplies of natural gas and sandstone in this nook of Fairfield County made it a logical choice for the establishment of the glassmaking industry.

Visitors can produce glass pieces at the on-site glass-blowing studio. Classes, starting at $27, cover how make ornaments, flowers, paperweights and Pandora-like beads for a bracelet. Also be sure to check out the gift shop that’s chock full of locally made merchandise.

Decorative Arts Center of Ohio
145 E. Main St., Lancaster

Artful adventure in Lancaster: Explore creative pursuits in historic downtown

See an art exhibit at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, located in the 1835-built Reese-Peters House adjacent to the Sherman House. The museum, open Tuesday through Sunday, is free to visit.

I popped in while the artwork of Nelly Toll was on display, and was impressed by the magnitude of the exhibit, which included more than 40 prints of her childhood paintings. When Toll was eight years old, she and her mother went into hiding for two years from Nazis occupying Poland in 1943. Amid tragedy, young Toll envisioned a brighter life through her watercolor paintings.

Besides thoughtful exhibits, check out the onsite Wendel Center for Art Education for equally thoughtful classes such as the Adult and Child Watercolor Workshop and the Art of Manners, where kids ages 8 through 17 can learn about table manners and cell phone etiquette.

While you’re in town, have lunch at JB’s Downtown Grill, 111 N. Columbus St. They’ve got kid’s entrees for less than $3, juke boxes on every table and tasty homemade ice cream cookie sandwiches.

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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

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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

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