Ohio attractions

Among the list of Harry Birt's Store favorites are the maple peanut clusters.

Sweet tooth

A faded sign inside this Darke County institution proudly proclaims the store motto: “A balanced diet is chocolate in both hands.” Sweetness certainly comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors at Birt’s Store in the village of New Weston.

Birt’s grandfather, Harry Birt Sr., unwittingly started a family tradition in the 1920s when he added five cases of white peppermint lozenges, orange slices, and chocolate drops to his general store shelves. The candy arrived via caboose at a nearby train depot, but it was evident that crew members had sampled plenty along the way.

Success was not only converted to a “convict ship,” complete with all her ghastly accoutrements, but was also the “oldest and most historic ship afloat.” 

Nothing succeeds like Success

There has likely never been a more ironic name for a prison ship than Success.

A group of promoters purchased the ship, planning to sail her around the world for the public to board and tour — for a price, of course. But before her debut, they believed Success needed a bit of refurbishing. 

They brought aboard some unusual equipment: handcuffs, leg irons, branding irons, metal straightjackets, a triangle-shaped whipping post, even a medieval torture device known as an iron maiden. 

And they painted on the sides of the hull, in large black letters, the words “Convict Ship.” 

Staff members at Mad River Mountain work to ensure a great skiing and tubing experience for all who visit.

Mad River Mountain

When he was 12, John Buchenroth received a Christmas gift of $10, which was a considerable sum in 1962. It turned out to be a life-changing gift for the Bellefontaine youngster.

Mad River has been owned by Vail Resorts since 2019, when the Colorado-based company purchased all 17 properties previously owned by Peak Resorts, Inc., including three other Ohio resorts. Mad River isn’t the oldest resort in Ohio — Snow Trails in Mansfield opened a year earlier — but it lays claim to being the largest in the Buckeye State, covering 144 acres, with a peak elevation of 1,460 feet above sea level.

The Hocking Hills State Park Lodge has an inviting air, with its rocking chair-lined porch.

First impressions

Located in southeastern Ohio in Hocking County, Hocking Hills is the Buckeye State’s most popular state park, visited by some 5 million people annually, and this past October, the brand-new, highly anticipated Hocking Hills State Park Lodge and Conference Center opened its

As expected, the lodge is gorgeous. Especially stunning is the view through the four-story picture windows of the main lobby. The open, timber-frame architecture incorporates the surrounding woods and natural landscape into a rustic yet state-of-the-art modern design. Overnight guests can choose from king beds, double queen beds, king and bunk beds, and queen and bunk beds. Two-room suites are also available. All rooms have a mini-refrigerator and microwave. 

Malabar Farm hosts free, two-hour Haunted Hikes at dusk that take visitors along the lanes by the park’s restaurant, the Big House, the cemetery, and the Ceely Rose House (Photo courtesy of Malabar Farm).

Things that go bump in the night!

Just over a rise in scenic Richland County, Malabar Farm appears in the distance — a stately, historic (and sprawling) main house, rolling hills and fields, and an inviting white barn with horses grazing nearby.

The rural setting conjures up plenty of other eerie lore, cemented in long-dead legends and myths. As a matter of fact, Malabar Farm — now an Ohio state park — has been called one of the 10 most haunted places in America. That’s why park naturalists are resurrecting the popular Haunted Hikes this month: creepy, outdoor explorations of ghostly tales and whispered legends shared on three autumn Sundays. 

Owners Mike and Sharlene Montgomery stay in character while manning the saloon.

Back in time

Mosey down a dirt street, browse through old-time shops, watch a Wild West shootout, or belly up to the saloon bar for a cold sarsaparilla. You can do it all at Dogwood Pass near Beaver in rural Pike County.   

The saloon came first in 2010, and today more than 30 buildings occupy a 2-acre tract at the Montgomery farm. There’s a general store, a jail, a bank, a photography studio complete with vintage costumes, an undertaker, a shooting gallery, a blacksmith shop, a combination church/school, Boot Hill cemetery, and the Montgomery Mining Company, where young and old alike can mine for gems on certain days.

“It’s a joy to talk to people about astronomy,” says Hoehne. “I’ve been stargazing most of my life, and this park is a great way to bring others into the fold and get them interested in science in general.”

Star struck

Getting Brad Hoehne to stand still for a photo isn’t easy.

Served by South Central Power Company, the park sits on an open patch of land within Hocking Hills State Park. It’s named for the Ohio-born-and-bred astronaut who was the first American to orbit the Earth. JGAP opened in 2018, but Hoehne had been thinking for years about creating a venue where the public could connect with the cosmos. “I got the idea in 2003,” he says.

Caches are hidden above ground. They can range from shoebox-sized containers to micro-caches a few inches long, but you’ll know what you’re looking for before you begin.

E-gaming in the outdoors

Geocaching — a smartphone version of hide-and-seek — turns GPS technology into a family-friendly game for getting outside.

When it was created 22 years ago, it was described as a “high-tech treasure hunt,” and though geocaching has evolved over the years, the basic premise remains the same. GPS coordinates are used to track down caches, or “treasure” hidden in containers. From the first cache hidden near Portland, Oregon, the number of caches has grown in two decades to well over 2 million worldwide, according to www.geocaching.com, the hobby’s worldwide coordinator. There’s sure to be a few near you right now.

Best friends Katie Helfrich, Kim Fulks, Stephanie Snee, Marella Murphy, Summery Rowlands, and Brittany Buch pose for pictures while embarking on a night out with Canton Food Tours.

Besties’ retreat

Like many moms whose children play sports in school, Kim Fulks of North Canton has formed close friendships with other moms just like her.

They embarked on a night out with Canton Food Tours, a service that local entrepreneur Barbara Abbott established a decade ago as a fun way to explore the city through its assorted eateries.

And as she lightly dips a spoon into a bowl of turtle soup at Bender’s Tavern, Fulks says she relished the opportunity to kick back without a game result, homeschooling chores, or the uncertainty of the pandemic to worry about.

As a girl, Annie Oakley was a market hunter before she became a sharpshooter.

Little Sure Shot

The greatest exhibition shooter of all time — male or female — was a young woman from Darke County, Ohio: Annie Oakley (1860–1926).

“The museum has the largest display of Annie Oakley photographs, firearms, and memorabilia anywhere in the world,” says Katie Gabbard, marketing director at the Garst. “An entire wing is dedicated to her, chronicling Annie’s many shooting accomplishments as well as her lesser-known philanthropic endeavors.”

In fact, very few of Annie’s medals and awards survive today, as she had most of them melted down near the end of her life so she could raise money for charity.