Family Fun and Learning in Ohio (page 2)
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- Family Fun and Learning in New Jersey
- Plan on Pennsylvania for Family Fun and Learning
- Fun and Learning in Florida!
- Must-Sees in Michigan for Family Fun
- Kid-Friendly California Fun and Learning
Looking for an all-American family destination? You can't beat the charm and history of Ohio! Buckeye State cities along the Ohio River and Lake Erie have blossomed in recent years from rust-belt industrial hulks to vibrant, clean, culturally diverse urban centers. Surprisingly large swaths of the state, however, are rural and agricultural, with charming small towns and rolling country roads that often contain an Amish buggy or two. Whether you're looking for big-city attractions or country appeal, here are our picks for top Ohio spots your family will love.
1) Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park – The town of Dayton is considered the birthplace of aviation; it was here that Ohio natives Orville and Wilbur Wright experimented with making practical and functional flying machines. The Heritage Park includes multiple facilities: the Wright Cycle Company complex, a Visitor Center housed in the building where the brothers’ printing business produced newspapers and handbills, the nearby Huffman Prairie Flying Field Interpretive Center where the brothers flew their inventions over the open prairie, and the Carillon Historic Park’s Wright Flyer III, the first aircraft that could turn and be controlled in flight. Park rangers lead guided tours, some of them even using appropriate transportation: bicycles.
2) Toledo Museum of Art – Since the city is a leading glass manufacturing center, it makes sense that Toledo’s art museum has a massive collection of beautiful ornamental glass and a dramatic curving glass-walled pavilion with frequent glassmaking demonstrations. At the end of every week there are extended hours and kid-friendly activities during “It’s Friday!” and the TMA Family Center has drop-in themed activities during the week. Best of all, everything including admission is always free.
3) Ohio Historical Center – The history and growth of Ohio, all under one roof in Columbus. Poke through artifact drawers full of ancient tools, see how the state grew from raw wilderness to an industrial and agricultural power and visit interpreters in the recreated Civil War-era Ohio Village adjacent to the main building. Fun sidelight: the Ohio Village Muffins sponsor the largest vintage “base ball” tournament in the US over Labor Day weekend, complete with players using uniforms and equipment identical to that of teams from 1845 – 1924.
4) Glacial Grooves – Kelleys Island, one of several islands in the Lake Erie Islands State Parks complex, has a demonstration of the power of massive glaciers that covered Ohio about 10,000 years ago. The Glacial Grooves make it appear that a giant cat’s claw raked across the island’s limestone, leaving long swaths of scored rock several feet deep. Native Americans also left pictographs on Inscription Rock. Soak it all in, then stay overnight in one of two yurts in the island’s campground.
5) National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – The Underground Railroad was a secret series of houses and churches that hid fugitive slaves on their way north to freedom. Some of the hiding places can be seen today, but many are in private homes, so this Cincinnati museum on the Ohio River (including the child-friendly “Escape!” exhibit) is a great way to learn a lot in one spot. To find out how to visit many of the actual Railroad hiding places across Ohio, see the Passage to Freedom Web site.
6) Hopewell Culture National Historic Park – The ancient residents of Ohio lived in some of the largest cities north of Mexico, and 23 of the mounded remnants of their 200 BC – AD 500 civilization are in this park on the Scioto River near Chillicothe. Watch a short film at the visitor center that explains what archeologists have learned so far in their explorations, and then take a Ranger-guided tour across the mounds to see how they were used for ceremonies, social life and possible astronomical observations.
7) Dayton Art Institute – Known for decades as “Dayton’s Living Room,” this mid-sized museum has a vibrant children’s education and outreach program. The self-contained interactive gallery space called Experiencenter (the first of its kind in any US art museum) hosts in-depth, multidisciplinary rotating exhibitions that focus on certain periods of history or a specific decorative art. Museum Tuesdays and Museum Saturdays always have special themes combined with hands-on workshops using 2D and 3D materials. Stop in on Sunday afternoons or Thursday evenings for free concerts.
8) Taste of Cincinnati – Held downtown every Memorial Day weekend, this is the longest-running culinary arts festival in the U.S. Dozens of restaurants serving over one hundred tasty items, continuous live music and entertainment, booths set up on stroller-friendly asphalt, plenty of hotels nearby if you want to stay close to the chow….and admission is free. Surely even the pickiest kids can find some new foods to enjoy!
9) Cleveland Orchestra children’s programs – One of the top orchestras in the nation for decades, the Cleveland Orchestra hosts family concerts, many kid-friendly activities and music during its Blossom Festival summer series and 30-minute Musical Rainbow concerts for children ages 3-6. They also sponsor and mentor a Youth Orchestra, Youth Chorus and Children’s Chorus.
10) Ohio Amish Country – One of the largest Amish and Mennonite communities in the U.S. is spread across picturesque Holmes County (several roads are a designated National Scenic Byway.) The Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center in Berlin gives a good overview of their unique language, religion, culture and daily life. Park next to Amish carriages at the Mt. Hope Auction and enjoy the bustle during one of the produce, dairy cow or draft horse auctions. Explore the typical Amish farm and lifestyle at either Yoder’s Amish Home or Schrock’s Amish Farm, then marvel at the old-time equipment and appliances that are still sold at Lehman’s Hardware in Kidron (butter churn or wringer washer, anyone?)
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