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8 drivable destinations the fam can’t complain about

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It’s time to hit the road—and this time the fam is coming with.

Who else better to be your trip advisors than (614) readers who’ve vacationed with the kids without burning up the Family Truckster and their sanity in the process?

Here are your best bets with options ranging near and far:

Chicago

Chicago. The city that I learned can be a prolific builder of “dad-bods.” America’s third-largest city has literally everything that a family on vacation could want. Great food, live entertainment, museums, art. And you can see it all relatively easily thanks to an easy-to-learn public transportation system. However, what I learned fairly quickly was that if you have a child who doesn’t walk well, a lot of that public transportation is NOT stroller friendly. Buses are crowded, subway entries lack a lot of access. I also ran into a few Uber drivers who lied about carrying a car seat and suggested we just take a chance on their safe driving.

So before you take off, hit the gym and get those baby-carrying-biceps in shape to visit these places:

Wrigleyville (in-season). Unparalleled energy, even if you aren’t a sports fan.  
Millennium Park. Like it or not, you go to Chicago, you are going to see that damn metal bean, “Cloud Gate.” 
Museum Row. Every one of them is worth it. Shedd Aquarium is a sure thing for kids.
Maggie Daley Park. Amazingly clean and full of hours of fun for little ones.
Giordano’s deep dish pizza. Order your pizza before you go to the restaurant as it takes about 40 minutes to bake. We sat with an irritated toddler, learn from us!

Nashville

When the path of totality fell just north of Nashville last August, we decided to make the weekend road trip an end-of-summer adventure. Avoiding the typical tourist traps made for memories as unique and enduring as the eclipse itself.

Tweens can be tough to impress, but ours were completely immersed. From a hands-on history lesson at Hatch Show Print creating letterpress postcards to DIY pancakes at The Pfunky Griddle, make sure your vacation includes time for individual expression and is more experience than spectacle.

If the line to squeeze into the Voice-O-Graph recording booth at Third Man Records is too long, stop by The Great Escapeto flip through decades of LPs and stacks of 78s. Their collection of comics and vintage toys closes the gap between nerdy and nostalgic. Everyone gets to be the cool kid here.

Allergies and special diets don’t need to make dining mundane. Five Daughters Bakery offers unexpected paleo and vegan doughnuts like lemon raspberry and coconut cream pie in addition to their already epic menu of breakfast confections. Try the gluten-free hot chicken at Pinewood Social, a restaurant/bar/pool/bowling alley on the emerging edge of downtown—though afternoon hours are probably a better fit for families.

Musicians Corner at Centennial Park is a free summer mainstay with local artists, food trucks, and an interactive “Kidsville” anchored by the legendary live concert series featuring performers ranging from Emmylou Harris and Ralph Stanley to Son Volt and Langhorne Slim.

Yellow Springs

Every year when it gets warm, my wife and I take our two girls to the grooviest little town in Ohio. Most of the time it’s a day trip, but, if we’re feeling extra adventurous, we camp out at and hike the trails at nearby John Bryan State Park. Downtown Yellow Springs has a totally infectious hippie vibe—full of weird, wild and wonderfully eclectic little shops and boutiques. Like books? (We do.)

Then check out Dark Star Books. You can find about any book you want there, but they seem to celebrate nerd culture most of all. Plus, there’s usually a fat, friendly cat chilling in the corner that loves to be pet. Like wine? (My wife does.) Emporium Wines and Underdog Café is where we stop in to get a great cup of coffee and purchase tasty wines for later consumption.

Like records? (I do.) The Toxic Beauty Records and Gallery has a great selection. Last time I was there I got a Fat Boys record. Don’t be jealous. Like toys? (My kids do.) Mr. Fub’s Party Toys & More has a truly diverse selection, many with an educational spin.

Like beer? (Yes is the answer.) Stop in for one at Ye Olde Trail Tavern. Be sure to ask about its haunted nature. I believe we were told a story about a woman in a blue dress who appears from time to time.

Like food? (Trick question – you need it to survive.) Be sure to stop in for a home cooked meal at the Clifton Mill. No lie, it’s a super-cool building and the food is great. There’s a ton more that you just need to experience for yourselves. This little oasis is only about an hour drive from Columbus. If you haven’t been, you seriously need to go. And say hello to Dave Chappelle for me. (Yes, he lives there.)

Pigeon Forge

Pigeon Forge offers so much for families to do, can be done on a budget and is a manageable 6-hour car ride from Columbus. We took our 4-year old and 6-year old boys and stayed a long weekend (Friday-Monday) in a small rustic cabin in the Smoky Mountains. In addition to being nestled into the woods, the cabin was stocked with board games, featured a small hot tub on the deck, and had a pool table in the basement.

Our daily routine included making breakfast and packing lunches in our day packs after which we’d head out for a late morning-into-afternoon hiking adventure. Our favorite trails included Porter’s Creek, which features a footbridge, and the very popular Cade’s Cove, a shorter hike which included great views of the Smokies and had historic remnants of a church and mill which the kids loved exploring and made for great resting spots. There were plenty of places to stop for a picnic style lunch during these hikes.

Our evenings were usually spent in downtown Pigeon Forge which offers a grand strip of shops and kid friendly activities. During our visit, we stopped into a gem mine and went sluicing for gold, shopped for geodes, rode go-karts and grabbed a BBQ dinner that even little (finicky!) eaters would like. Dollywood theme and water park is also nearby and offers a lot to do.

Cincinnati

As a family, we go to Cincinnati once a year. It’s the perfect weekend getaway when you have two toddlers and a long drive is inconceivable. Aside from the beautiful architecture, there are many reasons that keep us coming back to the Paris of the Midwest. Here is a rundown of the places that are fun for the whole family!

Stay at 21c Museum Hotel, and go for the family package. This includes four tickets to the Newport Aquarium (value of around $100), fresh cookies and milk delivery, teepee tent in the room, and an I-spy guide for the museum. We go for the corner suite—the bedroom is separated by a door from the living room and it’s plenty of space so we all aren’t on top of each other. There is also a two-bedroom suite option if you need a little more space than that.

The hotel has one of the top restaurants in the city, Metropole, so if the kids aren’t up for going out we order room service, the kids adore it and we are able to have five-star dining while watching Wall-E for the 50th time. If you can make it out for some shopping there are a ton of family friendly spots around Over the Rhine, which is just a stroller ride away from the hotel. Make sure to stop by Reunion Clothiers for some great vintage finds for adults and kids.

Piggy back the weekend with a City Flea experience, Reds game or a children’s program at Washington Park. On the way back home, hit up Findlay Market for lunch/groceries and stop by Rhinegeist for a growler.

Indianapolis

Indianapolis is an easy three-hour drive from Cbus, so it’s perfect for families: you’ll likely arrive before anyone asks, “Are we there yet?” Less time in the car means more time for fun at places like the world’s largest Children’s Museum, where your crew could ride on a historic carousel, explore dinosaur habitats, or slide down a chocolate river, depending on your mood.

The Indianapolis Zoo is another highlight, particularly for the botanical displays of its White River Gardens and the hands-on experiences of its Family Nature Center. If you like your nature with a side of art, you can also head over to Newfields, which features both indoor galleries and a gorgeous outdoor campus (think fountains, flowers, even a beer garden).

If the beer garden isn’t open, no worries: Sun King Brewing Co. locations are “all-ages,” so the whole family can head there to unwind (just pack some juice boxes for the kids). When your children inevitably wake you up early (even on vacation) head over to Milktooth, a funky diner-style spot that’s a treat for parents, but still satisfies little ones. Full service brunch (with booze) is served every day, featuring classics with an artisan twist. If there’s a wait, stay put: it’s worth it.

Don’t make the mistake of over-scheduling: leave some free time to stroll Canal Walk, or have an impromptu public art hunt downtown, where you can discover 30-foot tall murals of Indy literary heroes Kurt Vonnegut and Mari Evans—what could be more ’grammable?

New York City

NYC is one of my favorite places to visit, so the minute my son started to show an affection towards trains and subways, I started plotting to make NYC our family’s Disney World. The length of the car trip is definitely pushing it, but start early, stop often, and end the trip by parking in New Jersey and taking a train the rest of the way. Public transportation is super exciting for my four-year-old so his ideal itinerary would have been subway rides all day, every day. He loved it so much that we made an unplanned but highly enjoyable visit to the New York Transit Museum.

We also fancied the Staten Island Ferry for its cheap, close view of the Statue of Liberty. If your kid is a city kid, NYC itself is a playground. But it’s also full of actual playgrounds. Sprinkle in stops to neighborhood parks for quick play or make a special trip to explore Central Park’s carousel and zoo.

And when the city starts to be too much, an easy subway ride away is Coney Island! With classic amusement rides like the Wonder Wheel and a highly stroll-able boardwalk, it’s a place that feels nostalgic on your very first visit. Back in the city, take any opportunity to enjoy the unique skyline. Some of the best views are from the observation deck of Freedom Tower, but be sure to buy advance tickets to skip the long lines.

Two stops we regrettably didn’t make are the American Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!) and The Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum(airplanes!). But this gives us a head start on planning our next visit, which can’t happen soon enough for my tiny transportation buff.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC is actually a fantastic city to visit with kids! The hotels can get a little pricey, but if you plan your visit when Congress is out of session you can find great deals in some of the great, walkable neighborhoods of the District. Logan Circle, which is walkable to several metro stops, has a ton of great food nearby and an average UberX cost of $7-9 to the monuments and museums. For family friendly activities you have the amazing and free Smithsonian museums which all hold kid-friendly activities on a regular schedule, the National Botanical Garden (near the Capitol), and Eastern Market, which holds an outdoor market on weekends.

Other favorites of ours include: DC Waterfront: With locations like The Yards, The Wharf DC, and the Georgetown waterfront there are  great hotels and restaurants and shopping, live music venues and splash pads for the kids all connected by water taxi. There is also a free shuttle connecting Wharf DC and other must visit spots around Southwest D.C.. The National Building Museum: Just a few minutes walk from the National Mall, the National Building Museum has the best kids play space I have yet to find anywhere called “Play Work Build”. Be prepared to stay the whole day!

One last thing: When visiting DC with kids do not be tempted to stay at a hotel outside the Beltway and take the metro in every day.  Staying in a neighborhood like Logan Circle, Dupont Circle, Southwest or NOMA makes it easy to head back to the hotel if the kids need a rest and you spend more time doing things rather than waiting on a Metro train to show up.

By  / (614) March 2018

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Ultimate Columbus Summer Bucket List

614now

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Hello and welcome to summertime! Today is the longest day of the year—plenty of time for you to sit down with your family and/or friends to map out your bucket list for this summer. Or...you could get a start on ours!

We've put together the ultimate list of summer activities in Columbus to ensure you have a summer full of fun. Just remember to wear sunscreen!

Go berry picking

Nothing tastes better than something you’ve worked for. And nothing tastes sweeter than something picked right from the dirt. Don the sun hats and sturdy shoes because we’re about to put you to work for your fruit! Here are more than 20 farms offering U-pick berry programs for strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, cherries, and peaches in central Ohio.

Support local growers at neighborhood farmers' markets

Do you know where your produce is from? Odd are if you don’t purchase them straight from a farmer, you’ve got no clue. Fuel your summer with goods pulled right from central Ohio dirt at local farmers' markets!

Score a beer mug at ComFest

Besides epic memories, the best takeaway from ComFest is always the brightly-color plastic beer mug. Just remember to drink responsibly! Click here to read about the recent drama that went down with ComFest.

Celebrate freedom at Red White & Boom

Columbus' biggest Fourth of July celebration will be returning to downtown on July 3 for the largest fireworks display in the Buckeye State. Arrive early for the parade and stay late for the party!

Spend a day at the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium

This one is an absolute must. There's nothing like a warm summer day spent taking in the amazing animals at one of the best zoos in the country. Make sure to wave at the polar bears for us!

Gaze at the stars at John Glenn Astronomy Park

The John Glenn Astronomy Park is dedicated to sparking an interest in science, learning, and exploration by sharing with visitors the wonders of the sky, both day and night. Make sure to plan a trip to JGAP on a clear night to gaze at the wonderment of our universe.

Take in an outdoor movie

NightLight 614, a 21+ social outdoor film series on the banks of the Scioto featuring some of Columbus’s Best local food trucks, and craft beer & wine. Easton’s Movies by Moonlight series is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a lineup bigger and better than ever!

NightLight 614

Spend a day at the drive-in

Since the 1950s, the South Drive-In at 3050 S. High St. has been Columbus premier destination for late night, big screen movie showings under the stars. And since the 1970s, it’s been the largest central Ohio location for…flea markets? Yes, indeed. Click here to read more!

Eat as much ice cream as humanly possible

Ice Cream is a pillar of summer. But where to begin? We think this list of the best alt ice cream shops in Columbus would be a sweet place to start.

Chow down at the Jazz & Rib Festival

If you're not elbow-deep in BBQ sauce at least one time this summer, you're not eating correctly. There is absolutely no better place to put your manners aside and let your carnivorous nature shine than at the Jazz & Rib Festival. Hot ribs, cool jazz.

Stay afloat at Trapper John's

Leash up the pooch and buckle up your life jacket for an afternoon at Trapper John's Canoe Livery! Enjoy canoeing, kayaking and tubing on the State and National Scenic Big Darby Creek.

Chill on some patios

Ditch the AC for once and take advantage of these few fleeting months when Ohio offers a tolerable climate. We've got dog-friendly patios, High Street patios, NW Columbus patios, seven perfect patio pairings, and, of course, the best drinking patio as voted on by you!

Grab the perfect pic at a rooftop bar

Columbus is quickly becoming a rooftop bar city. With the recent additions from Lincoln Social, Juniper, and VASO, we've got eight high-up drinking establishments you need to patronize this summer.

Bonus: All The Way Up: My experience at Lincoln Social rooftop

Lincoln Social

Have the perfect picnic

The grass is lush, the butterflies are flying, and the sun is shining—the perfect al fresco dining experience. We've put together pairings of the city’s top places to fill up your basket accompanied by the best nearby park for the picnic of your dreams!

Sing along to a free show at Columbus Commons

Each summer, the Columbus Commons is your destination for free live music. From local bands like Doc Robinson, to national acts like Boyz II Men, the outdoor amphitheater is where you need to be.

Pitch a tent

The campers, RVS, and pop-up tents will be returning to the outdoors this summer, serving as a home away from home for those looking to escape the city for a few days. It’s time to get outdoors, enjoy nature, roast some marshmallows over the fire, and get off the grid if not for a couple moments of bliss.

Cannonball into a pool

Leave your layers and insecurities at home, because it’s time to give the pool whatever body you’ve got! Just remember to pack the good snacks, okay? Click here for 30 Columbus pools to beat the heat.

Let the kids loose at splash pads around town

Splashpads: Free and fun water spraygrounds without the worry of deep bottoms or high dives. We don't know about you but to us, that seems like a home run, nay, grand slam. This summer, diversify your cool down routine by hanging at one of Columbus' many exciting splashpads.

Awe at the beauty of Franklin Park Conservatory

Did you know Admission to Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is FREE to all residents of Franklin County, the first Sunday of every month, before 5 pm. And did you know FPC has a farmers' market? Plan your trip now!

Stop and smell the roses at the Whetstone Park of Roses

The Whetstone Park of Roses is just begging for you to stop and smell. It's the perfect place to pitch your hammock, take photos, and to enjoy the beauty of one of the largest public rose gardens in the U.S.

Sunbathe at Alum Creek Beach

It may not be the white sand beaches of Mexico, but we'll take what we can get. This public beach can be your seaside vacation if you have an imagination and tons of salty pretzels. A beach is a beach, right?!

Take your dog for a dip

We can’t be sure what dogs dream, but we’d imagine it’s a lot of neon yellow tennis balls, frisbees, bones, and playing fetch in ice cold water. Make your pup’s dream come true this summer with these awesome places to take your dog for a dip.

Walnut Woods Metro Park

Eat 10 cent hot dogs at a Clippers Dime-a-Dog Night

Dime-a-Dog Nights are an important staple of summer, especially on the firework nights. But you can't go into this eating excursion without a game plan! Check out our Columbus Clippers Dime-a-Dog Night Survival Guide to expertly navigate your hot dog hay day.

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Fried, Smothered, & Loaded: Vegetarian Junk Food

Mitch Hooper

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Whenever the words “vegetarian” or “vegan” are thrown around, people’s defense walls go up as they instantly imagine bland salads or unseasoned tofu. Since both diets have become wildly popular trends in the world of eating, they are often associated with exclusive, healthy, clean, natural, raw, whatever...eating.

As a vegetarian, I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Sure, we vegetarians eat our share of salads, and occasionally tofu is substituted for chicken on our health-conscious dishes, but that’s not the full picture of our plates. Whether it’s loading up on carb-heavy sides, covering things in cheese (or vegan “cheese”), or living off the appetizer menu; living a plant-based diet can be just as much fun and games as any other fare - and here are a few dishes from around Columbus to prove it.

AM Philly

Angry Baker Olde Towne East | 891 Oak St.

Angry Baker has found a way to cover things in cheese and still please the vegans. The AM Philly comes loaded with sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers with tofu scramble atop a fresh and soft hoagie bun. To keep it in true “cheese/steak” form, they top the entire masterpiece with vegan cheddar cheese and a little vegan mayo. The sandwich is every bit as flavorful as a regular Philly, plus it’s just as messy to eat. I recommend a few squirts of Sriracha on it, but then again, I recommend that on everything

Buffalo Mac

Woodhouse Vegan Pop-up | 1038 N High St.

Keeping it cheesy, but plant-based, comes from the vegan pop-up at Oddfellows with the Buffalo Mac. The entree is relatively simple, but that just means more chances to really focus on flavor. The Beyond Meat “chicken” strips are marinated in buffalo sauce to really pack a punch and then is topped with more buffalo sauce and dairy-free ranch dressing with a bed of dairy-free mac and “cheese” to dig into. It’s finished off with some raw red onion and scallions to fully recreate that buffalo-style experience. Keep an eye out for Woodhouse’s first brick-and-mortar location setting up shop in the Italian Village.

Fried Cauliflower 

Hadley’s Bar + Kitchen | 260 S Fourth St.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvcR4PnAOdM/

Cauliflower is the new favorite vegetable amongst dieters for being low-carb. It’s inviting to a variety of flavors, and it can be used in many creative ways. At Hadley’s, the fried cauliflower resembles the bar-style boneless wings you might be craving since ditching meat. It’s the little things you miss as a plant-eater (like dipping sauces). So finding a place that offers three different sauce options—Dr. Pepper barbeque, house hot, and General Tso’s—is quite a gratifying moment. Dunk these addicting suckers into Hadley’s house-made ranch or bleu cheese and you’ll be fighting your carnivorous friends off as they ask to try a bite.

Parma, Italy

Melt | 4206 Worth Ave. & 840 N High St.

Usually Melt’s sheer amount of dairy usage is enough to scare off any vegan within a 10-mile radius, but that all changed once Melt added an entire menu dedicated to vegan options. There are tons of options to choose from, but the Parma, Italy might take the caloric crown when it comes to plant-based indulgence. The sandwich features vegan chicken (or fried tofu) smothered in basil marinara with roasted garlic and vegan mozzarella cheese all in between two crusty pieces of garlic toast. It might not hurt to park a little further away from Melt just to burn a few extra calories on the way to and from devouring way too much food. 

The Joe Vegan Sloppy Sandwich

Lineage Brewing | 2971 N High St.

“Have some more sloppy joes! I made ‘em extra sloppy for you!” If that scene from Billy Madison still haunts you any time you go to break out some Manwich from the cupboard, put that canned sauce down and go to Lineage. Immediately order a beer to wash away the memory of the lunch lady, and then snag the Joe Vegan sloppy sandwich off the menu. It’s a hearty combination of lentils and kidney beans in the iconic sloppy joe sauce, and it’s topped with raw onion and your choice of vegan cheese sauce or cheddar cheese. Throw in a side of potato chips and it’s like being a teenager all over again except this time you didn’t have to steal your dad’s beer.

Vegan Barbeque Jackfruit

Alchemy | 625 Parsons Ave. 

& 1439 Grandview Ave. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Br8OMmWhpZK/

Jackfruit is a delicate fruit that tastes almost nothing like fruit. It’s a great vessel for sauces and flavorings, but if it’s not cooked properly, it can turn into a mushy mess. Thankfully, Alchemy has perfected this process with their vegan take on a classic barbeque pulled pork sandwich. The jackfruit is tender, but stays in form on the roll. For added texture and taste, the sandwich is served on a crunchy ciabatta roll with carrot cabbage slaw in an herbed cashew cream.

Brussel Sprouts

Barrel On High | 1120 N High St.

Don’t turn your nose up on Brussel sprouts, these green brain-looking vegetables are great for absorbing flavor and they have that “meaty” taste. At Barrel on High, these Brussels are oven-roasted and tossed into a Thai chili sauce making them potentially your new favorite thing. While the Thai chili brussel sprouts are worth tripling up on and calling it a dinner, might I point you in the direction of the Impossible Burger as well. The Impossible Burger has grown to fame because it resembles every aspect of meat while remaining plant-based, and Barrel’s straight-up approach of making an American classic go vegan will have you double checking the menu to make sure it’s not actually beef.

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Secret Columbus: 3 weird, wonderful, obscure spots

Laura Dachenbach

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Who doesn’t love the excitement and exclusiveness of a secret?When former Columbus TV anchor/reporter turned travel writer Anietra Hamper was approached by a publisher to find 90 places that Columbus may not know about, she couldn’t resist.Brushing up her old-school investigative journalism skills, Hamper set about to enlighten her city about its oddities with Secret Columbus: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure. And when I got the chance to road trip with Hamper to visit some of those places, I couldn’t resist either.Patriotic RockWe’re walking the Sullivant Trace Trail while Hamper describes Franklinton’s 1897 Centennial event, which took place right here. (She also casually mentions we’re on yellow alert for chiggers.)The community built a natural amphitheater in the park, held parades, gave speeches, shot off fireworks, and had their pictures taken with a massive glacial boulder painted for the occasion.
“It’s like they were going to manufacture this massive media event…that would put Franklinton on the map,” Hamper explains. “People would hear about Franklinton because they had such a grand celebration.”
Afterwards, the boulder became a prominent landmark and a source of neighborhood pride. Fifty-one feet in circumference and partially hidden by vegetation, it’s not quite as prominent today, but still visible from the boardwalk.Despite the warnings of parasites, I step off and start crunching through the underbrush, Hamper right behind. I feel quite rebellious until I see the graffiti and the trash; that’s when I feel an urge to start climbing.Sh*t. There’s a man on a bicycle staring at us. We freeze. Hamper grabs her pepper spray. Fortunately for this guy, he has better things to do and leaves. And we’ve got more stuff on our list too.See boulder at 22 secondsPsychiatric Hospital CemeteryHamper drives us through the ODOT complex and turns on an access road until it dead ends.
“You ready to be creeped out?”
We’re at the gate of the State of Ohio Old Insane and Penal Cemetery, where patients of the old Columbus Mental Health Hospital now rest after their remains went unclaimed.Hamper indicates the newest section of graves—around a hundred nondescript, functional markers: name, date of death, and perhaps an age or year of birth. Then she wanders into the open field, searching the ground.Finally she points to something—a brick-sized, ground-level marker. F13306. Female. Patient number 13306.

BROUGHT TO YOU BY

As I stand parallel to the marker, a shocking reality silently spreads across the flatness—rows and rows of markers stretching the length of the field. Hamper counted over 800 anonymous graves in one visit.
“No one knows who they are. No one will ever know who they are,” Hamper sighs. “What a sad thing.”
During the cemetery’s 54 active years, mental illness was routinely treated with controversial procedures such as electroconvulsive therapy, lobotomies, and forced sterilization.That context makes Hamper’s next stop even more horrifying.Within the section of newer graves is a stone bearing a single word: Specimens. Which means… body parts? …biomedical waste? …experiments? Whatever lies beneath, a marker strongly suggests human remains.But not all is macabre. There’s Mary Rickman, buried in 1958. Her stone, with a floral design etched in the corner, is clearly a replacement, displaying her full name and the word “Mother.”My throat tightens a bit. In this field of the lost and unwanted, someone has found family again. Olentangy Amusement Park, Zookeeper’s Office and QuartersOn the road again, Hamper tells me something that becomes the biggest mindf*ck of my day.From 1880 to 1939, the southwest corner of Clintonville was home to the country’s largest amusement park. As we drive through the site, now the Olentangy Village apartments, Hamper describes the amphitheater, the zoo, the rides, the gardens, the high-class entertainment, and the swimming pool decorated with sand (hauled from New Jersey) and seashells to create a beach.Picturing all that isn’t the difficulty. It’s that my hometown, which has always struggled with a bit of an inferiority complex, could optimistically pull off something so world-class, so distinctive. (It would try again in 1992 with AmeriFlora with far less successful results.)
“It was very ornate. It was a fun, family-friendly place to go, or a place that you might go on a date,” Hamper explained.
And virtually all of it—roller coasters, Japanese gardens, the fun house—has disappeared. The one remaining structure is a stone house located where North Street curves into Neil Avenue—the zookeeper’s office.Hamper takes me there, zipping through her old neighborhood. We park in front of an unassuming two-story house with a stone exterior and sage trim. It’s now being used as rental property.
“I grew up right around the corner from here,” Hamper mused. “I’ve driven by [this house] hundreds of times growing up and you have no reason to believe that it was anything special.”
But that’s the beauty of secrets. Most don’t hide themselves. They simply wait for you to complete them.Hamper points to the wrought-iron fencing running along the street, one of a few fingerprints left from the grand park’s earlier days.I gaze through it and imagine a beautiful, breezy day like this 90 years ago, with bathers by the pool, canoes running the Olentangy River, screams from the arcade, and I can feel the escape, the vibrations of happiness and excitement which still seem to exist here. And that’s exactly where Hamper wants me to go.
“I guess that’s what I hope people will do with the book: find these things because it’s fun and it’s cool, and it’s something to do. But more than that, I want to feed your brain. I want you to learn something. I want you to care about the world in which you live.”
 Columbus native Anietra Hamper covers destinations around the world for regional and national publications including AAA, USA TODAY, TourismOhio.com, Columbus Parent magazine, and official Visitor Guides for several counties in Ohio. She’s won numerous industry awards for travel writing and television news reporting. She is a recipient of the YWCA Women of Achievement Award, Jefferson Award and Congressional Award, and is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers. Copies of Secret Columbus are available on Amazon.com.
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