There’s so much to see and do in Ohio, even a lifetime resident like me discovers new things all the time. This year, in celebration of Ohio Day, I have a list of 10 things to do in Ohio that I haven’t done yet. Most of these are off the beaten path. Some are WAY off the beaten path. All are inexpensive (if not free), so even if you have to fly in to Ohio, rent a car, pay for hotel rooms, and endure the constant complaining of your children, this will be one of the most economical vacations you’ve ever taken. Plus, all your friends will be jealous that you’ve actually BEEN to Ohio.
We’ll start our tour in Sandusky at the Merry-Go-Round Museum. Don’t know the difference between a merry-go-round and a carousel? That’s because you haven’t been to the museum. Learn about the golden age of merry-go-rounds, when the animals were all hand-carved and the machines were driven by steam. The museum boasts a restored Allen Herschell Carousel as well as a number of historical pieces and artifacts from this lost art. The museum also has a substantial restoration shop for reviving neglected pieces. Admission is $5 for adults, with discounts for children and seniors. Admission includes a carousel ride.
Head west from Sandusky to Bowling Green to visit the National Construction Equipment Museum. Run by the Historical Construction Equipment Association, the museum boasts a collection of antique construction equipment. Remember Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel? If it weren’t still stuck in the basement keeping that building warm, it would be here at the museum. This place is sure to delight the Bob the Builder set, and at $5, it won’t break the bank, either.
Mike Mulligan’s steam shovel, Mary Anne, was a reference to the Marion Power Shovel company, based in Marion, Ohio. On our visit, though, we’ll be looking at some smaller pieces of equipment. The Wyandot Popcorn Museum has the world’s largest collection of popcorn makers and peanut roasters. The museum’s collection includes a variety of poppers, including an 1899 Cretors popcorn cart. They also have three videos for visitors to see, and, of course, lots of popcorn. Admission is $3, with discounts for children and seniors.
While you’re in Marion, stop by the Buckeye Telephone Museum. This museum traces the development of the telephone industry from the early days of Alexander Graham Bell to the present. A variety of telephones and switching equipment from years past is on display in an exhibit that documents more than a century of telephone progress. The museum is open by appointment, and admission is $1.
From Marion, we head south on our tour to the Columbus subburb of Hilliard. The Early Television Museum is dedicated to preserving and restoring television receiving and camera equipment from the early days of the medium. The museum has over 150 televisions on display, some dating back to the 1920s, and all tuned to different stations. Using a flying spot TV camera, guests can see what their friends would have looked like on a 1930 TV set. Admission is free, though the museum is funded entirely through donations.
Head east from the Columbus area to Coshocton to travel back in time to the 19th century. In the days before railroads, the easiest way to move cargo was by water. A number of canal projects throughout the United States connected rivers and lakes to make it easier to move goods. The Ohio and Erie Canal was one of the important canals, because it connected the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. By connecting the Ohio River with Lake Erie, it became possible to move goods from Canada and the northeast all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Much of the Ohio and Erie Canal has been preserved, and in Coshocton, you can take a 1.5 mile ride on the Monticello III, a horse-drawn canal boat. A narrator gives you a glimpse of life in the canal era along the way. The cost of the trip is $7 for adults, with discounts for youth.
It’s a short drive from Coshocton to Trinway, Ohio to visit the Dresden Junction Toy Train Museum. The museum includes an extensive collection of O-Gauge model trains as well as a sampling of HO and O27 gauge trains. There are also four full-size block signals and two full-size working crossings. The model layout encompasses 200 square feet, and can accommodate up to four trains. Admission is free, but the museum is funded by donations.
Head southeast from Trinway to Ava, Ohio to visit one of the more bizarre destinations on our trip. The USS Shenandoah was the first of four rigid airships built by the US Navy. The ship design was largely based on the zeppelin L-49, and it was christened in October, 1923. The ship had a tremendous range of 5,000 miles and at top speed of 70 miles per hour. Even the modern Goodyear blimps only have a range of about 800 miles, and a cruising speed of 35 miles per hour.
The Shennandoah’s tenure as a Navy ship was short-lived. On September 3, 1925, the ship broke apart into three sections during a storm over Ohio and crashed. While 14 people were killed in the crash, 29 people survived by riding sections of the airship to the ground. Beacuse the airship used helium rather than hydrogen, it did not burn when it crashed like the famed Hindenberg would 12 years later.
You can visit memorials at the crash sites, as well as a small museum in Ava operated by Bryan and Theresa Rayner. Bryan’s grandfather owned the farm where one of the sections of the ship landed,and the two have spent their lives preserving artifacts and memorabilia related to the Shenandoah.
While you’re in the area, be sure to visit the first oil well in North America. In 1914, Silas Thorla and Robert McKee were drilling for salt in an area where deer were known to lick. They found the salt, but they also found oil and natural gas. Not knowing what to do with it, they bottled the oil and sold it as a tonic. It wasn’t used for lamps and heating for another 45 years.
Heading north from Ava, stop at the Bluebird Farm Toy Museum in Carrollton. The museum features a variety of toys from the last 300 years, including dolls, stuffed animals, and miniatures of various types. The farm also features a restaurant, covered bridge, amphitheater, and gift shop. Admission is $3, but restaurant diners get $1 off.
We’ll end our tour by heading northeast to Warren for a quick visit at the First Flight Lunar Module. Ohio deserves its reputation as the birthplace of aviation. In addition to Dayton’s Wright Brothers, the first man to orbit the earth was Ohioan John Glenn, and the first man to walk on the moon was Ohio native Neil Armstrong. In 1936, six-year-old Armstrong took his first flight from the Warren Airways Airport. The airport isn’t there anymore, but the site is immortalized by replicas of the aircraft in which Armstrong flew, including a Saturn V rocket, and a half-scale model of the lunar module. The attraction is free.
I know, I haven’t even touched on southwest Ohio. We’re going to have to save that for next year. And, of course, there are all of those attractions that everyone knows about, but you’ve probably already visited them on your first few trips to the state. So enjoy these new adventures around the buckeye state, and have a Beautiful Ohio Day.