Worth the Trip

Worth the Trip

By Alexia Kemerling

 It’s easy to get stuck in a familiar loop of tried-and-true spots to meet up with family and friends — and there’s nothing wrong with favorites. But if you’re ready to make a few new memories, these standout attractions located in the heart of the state are worth the trip.

 Amid quaint downtowns and the rolling Ohio countryside, the last thing you’d expect to see is gothic architecture, but the Historic Ohio State Reformatory looms large with its stone towers and arches. From history to Hollywood to hauntings, visitors can embark on guided or self-guided tours to learn about life in the former penitentiary, the paranormal lingerings and the building’s Hollywood connection as the set of The Shawshank Redemption.

 More history awaits with another one-of-a-kind experience, this time, underground.

Located beneath Hudson and Essex Restaurant, a series of tunnels and caverns have been transformed from dark and dusty to illuminated fine- dining like you’ve never experienced. Where German makers once brewed lager in secret, you can now indulge in a handcrafted eight-course meal at Prohibition at the Caverns with optional wine pairings from on-site Cypress Hill Winery.

If you’re looking for a more family-friendly experience, Kingwood Center Gardens is a beautiful and convenient spot to meet for lunch and explore the outdoors. Enter through the Garden Gateway, where you’ll find a cute cafe with goodies like fresh salads, sandwiches, hot chocolate and gourmet cookies, an exhibit gallery and the Garden and Gift Shop. The magic continues as you exit the double doors into 47 acres of gardens. As you explore the winding trails through perennial, rose and herb gardens, you’ll encounter fountains, a duck pond and colorful peacocks wandering around, feathers trailing. Tour the lush Display Greenhouse and historic Kingwood Hall, the former mansion of Charles Kelley King. Get in on the holiday magic during Christmas at Kingwood, when the grounds are aglow with lit trees and decorations.

Meet more feathered friends at the Ohio Bird Sanctuary. Get up close and personal with red-shouldered hawks and great horned owls, stunning eagles and curious vultures. Purchase a small cup of feed and enter the lively aviary where 30 different songbirds flit through the habitat, and may even approach you for a snack. After spending time with the birds, follow the winding ADA-accessible walkway through the trees and up into the “nest” and treehouse pavilion. This area is used for outdoor classes and is a great spot for — you guessed it — birdwatching.

Get your adrenaline pumping at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Lexington road racing course draws drivers and fans from around the country for riveting races — sit sidetrack for IndyCars, Superbikes and vintage vehicles. But you don’t have to just watch from the sidelines, though. Strap on a helmet and climb into the driver’s seat to test the road for yourself at the Mid-Ohio School.