Features

Visitors at Indian Creek Distillery cozy up to the bar for some samples.

Among Ohio’s numerous tourism “trails” that group loosely kindred attractions to create a single novelty destination, the recently conceived Sweets and Spirits Trail in Miami County seems a perfect pairing for this time of year.

My husband, Mike, and I made a date of it recently. To guide us along the route, we downloaded the Miami County Sweets and Spirits Trail app, which showcases all stops and includes a map with distances between each location. Some spots offer incentives for visiting, including purchase discounts, free samples, or a free shot glass. As we virtually checked in at each location, we earned points toward prizes from the visitors bureau.

We were taken with the area’s charming small towns and the warmth and authenticity of the trail’s shop owners. For example: 

The reconstructed Central Mound at the Seip Earthworks southwest of Chillicothe (photograph by Mary Salen/Getty Images).

Jennifer Aultman speaks with reverence when she talks about Ohio’s earthworks — eight of which, linked together as the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, have been inscribed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scienti

About 1,100 landmarks around the globe have been added to the list since the program began in 1972, with 25 of them in the U.S. This is the first in Ohio.

Why are they special?

There are 10 criteria, any one of which qualifies a site for the World Heritage list. The OHC/NPS team cited two of those as they made the case for the Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks

Great Council State Park is scheduled to open near Xenia early this year.

The last organized departure of Shawnee people from Ohio began in September 1832.

Telling the story of the Shawnee — and their relationship with Ohio settlers — is the motivation behind the creation of Great Council State Park, scheduled to open early this year on State Route 68 between Xenia and Yellow Springs. 

Wallace, who has tangled with state officials on other issues, praises ODNR and the Ohio History Connection for the efforts to accurately present the Shawnee story in the new park. “I’ve always told them, ‘Don’t talk about us, talk with us,’ and that has happened from day one with this project,” she says. 

John Kenley is credited with carving a path for Broadway touring companies and founding today’s thriving arts scenes throughout the state.

Broadway musicals have dazzled audiences since the 1850s, and this year will be no exception.

Kenley — a theatrical producer and former vaudeville performer — founded the Kenley Players, which brought “America’s most exciting summer theater” to Ohio from 1957 until 1995, drawing crowds with lavish productions, low ticket prices, and big-name stars in leading roles. 

Paintings of Warren and Florence Harding that hang side by side near the entrance of the Warren G. Harding Presidential Library and Museum in Marion

Sherry Hall never tires of showing visitors the paintings of Warren and Florence Harding that hang side by side near the entrance of the Warren G. Harding Presidential Library and Museum in Marion.

The president has a genial twinkle in his eye and holds a straw hat straight out of the Jazz Age. Laddie Boy, the beloved Airedale who attended cabinet meetings and retrieved the president’s errant golf balls, sits at Harding’s feet, and resting on a table behind them is a copy of The Marion Daily Star, the failing newspaper Harding purchased at age 19. He managed to make it profitable and still owned the Star when elected president in 1920.   

When Colleen Jackson instructed her children’s homeschooling group in the early 2000s, she prepared a lesson featuring milk straight from the Holstein cows lolling in the pasture on her family’s 180-acre dairy farm near DeGraff.  

Like many dairy farmers in recent years, the Logan County Electric Cooperative members found themselves struggling with high production costs and low milk prices. Ray helped keep the farm afloat by working for a bovine genetics company, but things were tough. Faced with losing the farm and the way of life they love, Ray and Colleen converted an outbuilding into a licensed creamery named for the stream that crosses their land, and Indian Creek Creamery was born.

It’s often standing room only when the ODNR’s Wild Ohio Harvest mobile kitchen makes a stop.

Kendra Wecker, chief of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ wildlife division, swears she’s not trying to put any food trucks out of business.

The kitchen and its chefs cook and serve up free food created with wild-harvested Ohio game, including fish, fowl, and other critters. And Ken Fry, ODNR outdoor skills specialist, says it all began when he was cooking up such treats from the bed of a pickup truck with a pop-up tent at a Jefferson County farmers market a while back.

“It was so well-received that I presented the trailer idea to my supervisor and he liked it and said, ‘Let’s go with it,’” Fry says.

The Troll Hole

What happens when you receive a troll doll at the impressionable young age of 5? If you’re Sherry Grooms, you end up with a museum. 

One room has the Troll Bowl, a dollhouse version of a football stadium, where trolls are dressed as football players and fans sport NFL attire. There’s also the Rock ’n’ Troll Hall of Fame featuring troll versions of Rod Stewart, Justin Timberlake, KISS, and more. 

Troll collecting has made Grooms an expert on troll doll history. The original is from Denmark, where Thomas Dam carved wooden dolls for his daughter, inspired by trolls of Scandinavian folklore. Dam’s designs became mass-produced in the U.S. in the 1960s. 

Bob Lawson, a member of the Cincinnati chapter of the National Model Railroad Association, built this large HO-scale model of the Southern Railway, which traveled from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, in his Cincinnati-area home (photo courtesy of John Burchnall).

Jody Davis got his first electric train for Christmas when he was 8 years old. But his love affair with trains started even earlier. 

Davis joined Associated Model Railroad Engineers of Coshocton when he was 14, and currently, at 55, serves as president. 

An early start

It’s a familiar story with model railroaders: A childhood fascination with trains leads to a Christmas or birthday gift of a model train set. Retired music educator Bruce Knapp, 81, of North Bend, is still an active participant and member of the National Model Railroad Association’s Cincinnati chapter.

Carillon Historical Park in Dayton gets decked out for “A Carillon Christmas,” which harkens back to Yuletide seasons of yesteryear and transforms its signature bell tower into Ohio’s largest musical Christmas tree (photo by Damaine Vonada).

This time of year, you can find dozens of events that feature chestnuts roasting on open fires and Yuletide carols being sung by choirs, but there’s only one holiday celebration that features Ohio’s grandest musical Christmas tree.  

Located on 65 acres bordering the Great Miami River, Carillon Historical Park is an open-air museum founded in the 1940s by industrialist Edward Deeds and his wife, Edith. Because his passion was history and hers was music, they made Deeds Carillon the focal point of a collection of buildings and artifacts that highlight both Dayton’s heritage and its many contributions to industry and transportation.