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Ohio Odyssey


CHOOSING OHIO AS A GETAWAY ADVENTURE is easy. The hard part is deciding what to see and do in the 17th state admitted to the Union.

One option for touting is to sample the state by its five geographic areas. From wild, wacky amusement parks and tales of Underground Railroad bravery to football, fishing, and presidential sites, this land the Iroquois named "good river" promises happy trails and pleasure-packed memories.

NORTHWEST

Lake Erie, the warmest of the Great Lakes, lures anglers to Ohio's northwest corner with the promise of walleye and other catches. The lake and its islands attract boaters and water sports junkies as well.

South Bass Island, best known for the village of Put-in-Bay, boasts two wineries, cave tours, an international peace memorial, and overnight possibilities. Day-trippers opt to leave their cars on the mainland and board ferries to Kelley's Island. Once there, they check out the world's largest display of glacial grooves and linger at the island's winery. Golf carts and bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation on both islands.

In the mood for heart-stopping scream machines? Cedar Point delivers. Home to 16 roller coasters--more than any other amusement park on earth--the complex on Lake Erie in Sandusky features three antique carousels, hotels, and campgrounds as well as thrill rides, stage shows, and Soak City water park. Families craving indoor wet fun are drawn to Sandusky's three big-time water park hotels--Cedar Point's Castaway Bay, Kalahari Waterpark Resort, and Great Wolf Lodge.

Toledo, bordering Michigan at the westernmost point of Lake Erie, is one of the Great Lakes' prime ports and industrial centers but also has outstanding tourist attractions. A hippo habitat where visitors are treated to underwater viewing and an African plain with native animals are reasons why some folks nominate the Toledo Zoo as the best in the Midwest. Equally impressive is the Toledo Museum of Art, founded in the late 19th century by Edward Libbey, creator of Libbey Glass, and his wife Florence. The Grecian-style structure shelters a collection of primitive scrolls, a medieval cloister, and works by Monet, Degas, and other masters. In keeping with Libbey's wish that art should be free for public viewing, the museum does not charge admission.

Favorite detours in the northwest include Thomas Edison's birthplace in Milan, Lakeside's Chautauqua-like summer playground, and a climb to the top of Marblehead Lighthouse, the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes.

CENTRAL

Columbus, the Buckeye State's capital, offers all the perks of a vibrant big city, quenching a variety of tastes. Choices include a first-class art museum, zoo, aquarium, interactive science center, spectator sports venues, ethnic fests, literary haunts, and eclectic dining and entertainment.

The historic North Market, a year-round home to butchers, bakers, fishmongers, farmers, and other merchants, provides a leisurely ambiance for eating and shopping. At the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Garden, meander through the desert, rainforest, and mountain climes to search for a handful of brilliant glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly. Interactive displays add to the conservatory's kid-friendly atmosphere.

On the grounds of Ohio State University, a museum pays tribute to Jack Nicklaus' golfing career and the history of golf. During Big Ten football games, chants from avid OSU fans resound from the stadium.

The outer limits of Columbus provide a treasure trove of options. Dublin, an easy drive northwest of downtown Columbus, celebrates the traditions of the Emerald Isle during its annual summer Irish Festival. Intriguing outdoor art sculptures are scattered around town.

Motorcycle enthusiast? Make tracks southeast to Pickerington's Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum. Spelunkers might prefer to venture northwest to the caverns in Logan County. Stalactites, stalagmites, and rare cave pearls are worth the trek. Two covered bridges and a couple of extravagant mansions add to the countryside's charm.

Looking for a one-of-a-kind gem? Head south to Canal Winchester to tour the Barber Hall of Fame. Ask for Ed Jeffers, barber and museum owner, who enjoys sharing anecdotes about his awesome collection of barber poles, tools, brushes, and knickknacks.

SOUTHEAST

On the weekend after Labor Day, Marietta, site of the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory, hosts the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival. Clusters of spectators, sprawled on blankets dotting the river banks, cheer as steamboats race to the finish line. Powerboat fans show up on the weekend after the Fourth of July to watch a different kind of competition--the Marietta Riverfront Roar.

In Zanesville, once the capital of Ohio, pottery, antiques, and the Y-Bridge (a bridge that you can cross and still be on the same side of the river!) attract sojourners. A real jewel southeast of Zanesville is the safari-like adventure at The Wilds, North America's largest wildlife preserve. Bus tours allow visitors close-up peeks at white rhinos, wild horses, giraffes, antelopes, and other species grazing on an open range.

Murals add spark and color to more than 2,000 square feet of flood walls guarding the Ohio River shoreline in Portsmouth. In Dresden, see the world's largest apple basket and tour the factory of the Longaberger Basket Company, famous for its mail-order baskets. The seven-story company headquarters building in Newark is shaped just like one of its signature picnic baskets, complete with handles.

Hungry for a quirky nostalgic experience? Check out Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & General Store in the rustic community of Starr. Hundreds of lunchboxes, some more than a century old, some fastened to fishing line dangling from the ceiling, don the casual quarters that once served as a rollerskating rink, election house, and movie theater.

NORTHEAST

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the world's only museum dedicated to the history of rock and roll, hugs Cleveland's North Coast harbor. Cleveland boasts a bounty of musical entertainment, from opera, ballet, jazz, and blues to a world-renowned symphony orchestra. University Circle embraces the city's cultural center, featuring museums, galleries, parks, and eateries.

Lake County, a coastal region east of Cleveland, beckons travelers to Ohio's longest beach, the country's largest arboretum (Holden Arboretum near Kirtland), and the home of President James A. Garfield in Mentor.

At Geauga Lake & Wildwater Kingdom in Aurora, there's good news for water and amusement park addicts. The park is dropping admission prices by $10 for the 2005 season. In nearby Akron, visitors flock downtown to 120-foot-high storage silos, former mill buildings of the Quaker Oats Co. headquarters that have been converted into a lodging/dining/shopping complex.

Canton is the site of a library, museum, and memorial to our country's 25th president, William McKinley. (Eight United States presidents were either born or raised in Ohio, more than in any other state.) Other worthwhile Canton highlights include the Pro Football Hall of Fame and atmospheric Canton Palace Theatre. The Hoover Historical Center in North Canton, housed in the boyhood home of the founder of the Hoover Co., showcases vintage vacuum cleaners.

Black buggies dot the rural lanes in and around tourist-friendly Millersburg and neighboring Amish towns in Holmes County. Folks are welcome to dine on hearty country food, spend the night at a bed and breakfast, and shop in the heart of the world's largest Amish community.

SOUTHWEST

Everything from aviation and antiques to museums, and palm-sweating thrill rides is tucked into Ohio's southwest corner.

The Dayton area, home base of flying-machine pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright, serves as the heart of aircraft history. At the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, the accomplishments of three men--the Wright brothers and their childhood friend, Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first recognized African-American writer and poet laureate--are honored.

A short jaunt east of Dayton, on the grounds of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is the National Museum of the United States Air Force, where visitors tour a Presidential jet, marvel at rare WW II-era planes, and experience the sensation of flying in a fighter jet. The world's largest military aviation museum displays more than 300 aircraft and missiles on 17 acres.

Drive south of Dayton to explore Old Main Street in Waynesville, the "Antiques Capital of the Midwest." In Lebanon, once a popular stop on the stagecoach route, the Golden Lamb Inn & Restaurant, Ohio's oldest continuously operating inn, offers a great excuse to dine or sleep. For family fun, try Paramount's Kings Island theme park, north of Cincinnati.

Except for the whimsical flying pig sculptures along Cincinnati's Ohio River banks, all the pigs are gone in the meat-packing town once called Porkopolis. Headliners today include the Cincinnati Reds, the oldest professional baseball team; the Contemporary Arts Center, the first art museum designed by a woman; and the new National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, a powerful interactive exhibition that recalls the days of slavery in America.

Contact: Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism, (800) BUCKEYE; www.DiscoverOhio.com.

COPYRIGHT 2005 World Publishing, Co. (Illinois)
COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group