Popcorn and pencil sharpeners, minerals and merry-go-rounds, Great Lakes, and great-big cuckoo clocks: Ohio has a plethora of pretty amazing things to explore. Here’s just a sampling of our state’s perhaps lesser-known museums, collections, and interesting sights.
1. Langsdon Mineral Collection, Celina
Back in 2006, local collectors Ron and Ruth Langsdon donated much of their extensive collection of rare minerals to the Mercer County District Library in Celina. The Langsdon Mineral Collection includes more than 900 stunning specimens of minerals from all over the world — from a peacock-colored bornite and raspberry garnet to azurite, amethyst quartz, and an enormous, polished piece of jade. The collection, housed in 27 glass cases, is open for self-tours anytime the library is open and attracts local residents, schoolchildren, Scout troops, and visitors from across Ohio.
2. National Museum of the Great Lakes, Toledo
The National Museum of the Great Lakes tells awe-inspiring stories of the Great Lakes through 500 photographs, 250 artifacts, 45 interactive exhibits, a 617-foot iron ore freighter, and a historic tug. The tales span hundreds of years — from the fur traders in the 1600s to the Underground Railroad operators in the 1800s, rum-runners in the 1900s, and the sailors on the thousand-footers today.
3. Wyandot Popcorn Museum, Marion
The Wyandot Popcorn Museum is housed inside Marion’s Heritage Hall – the town’s historic U.S. Post Office that dates back to 1910. Allow a couple of hours to explore the circus-themed museum, which boasts an impressive collection of turn-of-the-century popcorn wagons, peanut roasters, and the world’s largest collection of popcorn antiques.
4. World’s largest cuckoo clock, Sugarcreek
In the center of Sugarcreek’s Swiss Village is the world’s largest cuckoo clock; at more than 23 feet tall and 24 feet wide, it was once featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. Every half hour, visitors can watch as a cuckoo bird appears, followed by a dancing couple and Swiss polka band.
5. American Sign Museum, Cincinnati
Cincinnati’s American Sign Museum is the largest public museum dedicated to the art and history of commercial signs in the U.S. Its 20,000 square feet of space explores a century of American sign history. Visitors can see everything from early, pre-electric signs adorned in gold leaf to art-deco neon signs, modern plastic examples, and even an inviting display that re-creates a typical American main street.
6. Ohio River Museum, Marietta
Explore the history of the Ohio River at this Marietta museum, which includes three buildings of exhibits tracing the river’s historic importance, including the golden age of the steamboat, and the ways the river has transported people and cargo for hundreds of years. The centerpiece is the W.P. Snyder Jr., the last of the steam-powered stern-wheeled towboats in America. There’s also a flat boat reproduction, a restored shanty boat, hand-crafted boat models, and artifacts like pilot wheels, boat whistles, and bells. Open April–October.
7. Merry-Go-Round Museum, Sandusky
From traditional painted ponies to pigs and zebras, frogs, dogs, and sea monsters, lots of carousel animals can be found at the enchanting Merry-Go-Round Museum. Celebrating the art and history of the carousel, the museum is housed in the former Sandusky Post Office. It features a working, fully restored Herschell Carousel; with its oom-pah-pah organ music providing the backdrop, riders can choose from 21 spinning animals, all led by Stargazer, the circa-1915 lead horse.
8. Pencil Sharpener Museum, Logan
The Rev. Paul Johnson started collecting pencil sharpeners in the 1980s. After his death, his family wanted others to enjoy his collection, too, and the Pencil Sharpener Museum was established. The compact museum — housed in a tiny building at the Hocking Hills Welcome Center — spotlights more than 3,400 pencil sharpeners. You’ll find everything from traditional hand-cranked metal sharpeners to those shaped like globes and pianos, cars and cannons, birds, dolls, airplanes, ships, and even fast food.