Ohio: It’s really not that bad

. March 20, 2013.

Just to the south of Ann Arbor, there’s a whole other land full of fun activities and intriguing sites. It’s drive away. If you get a kick out of sports, amusement parks, nature, history, and the occasional consumption of food, then the Buckeye State is an exciting option for a quick summer getaway. And, the best part is you don’teven have to learn another language. 

Cosi I realized that Ohio was more than some flat-as-a-pancake state full of people who take their football a little too seriously during my daughter’s sixthgrade field trip. When the teachers announced that the class would be going to Ohio at the end of May, all of the parents while scratching their heads. “Ohio? Really?” 

The teachers reassured us. “We get the same puzzled looks every year, but after students and parents experience the trip, they all agree that it’s wonderful.” Lo and behold, they were right. Even the city of Columbus was not as rundown and smelly as we make it out to be. OK, fine. It was actually very nnn…ahem. Let me try that again: it was very…nnn… nice. There, I said it. I know that Bo must be rolling over in his grave right now, but it’s true. If any of you don’t believe me, go see it for yourself—just not on a football Saturday.

On this particular field trip and other trips, I’ve seen some incredible sites in the Buckeye State. I’ll categorize them by interest:

Nature and Science:

COSI (Center Of Science and Industry) in Columbus is a supernova of scientific fun for the whole family. It is a big terms, it’s gi-normous. Also, if you’re a member of the Ann Arbor Hand-On Museum, show your card and the good folks at COSI will let you in free (exhibits only). For a shorter drive, visit the Imagination Station in Toledo. A former COSI, this spot has over 300 exhibits for hands-on learning!

Olentangy Indian Caverns in Delaware, Ohio is a beautiful geological adventure. You’ll feel like Tom Sawyer—or Becky Thatcher if you’re a girl—exploring deep underground. While you’re there, you can even pan for gemstones. 

Secor Metropark in Toledo is a gold mine for fossil hunters (I guess that would make it a fossil mine). No joke, though, there are piles of earth you can dig through to find fossilized brachiopods and trilobites. These are 350-million- year-old critters that lived when a shallow sea covered southeastern Michigan and northwestern Ohio. If you’re thinking that dinosaur bones would be much cooler to uncover, remember that dinosaurs only lived about 200 million years ago. The Secor fossils have finely aged to where they are now ripe.

Fort MeigsHistory:

Fort Meigs in Perrysburg (near Toledo) is only a short drive from Ann Arbor. This stronghold is named for Ohio Governor, Return Jonathan Meigs (sounds more like a command than a name). During the War of 1812, General William Henry Harrison and his troops held off two sieges by the British. This greatly ensured that Ohio and Michigan wouldn’t be part of Canada and thereby could avoid learning the metric system.

Close to Fort Meigs, in Maumee, is the site of the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In 1794, American General Anthony Wayne defeated a confederacy of Indian tribes. The group of Native Americans was led by, among others, the famous Tecumseh. Tecumseh would later get a town named after him, and Wayne a county. I wonder if they knew that his nickname was “Mad” Anthony Wayne. 


Amusement, Sports, and Food:

Just a canon-shot to the shore from Perry’s victory is an even more famous site: Cedar Point. Adored by kids of all ages, this amusement park is loaded with thrill rides that will race, spin, and drop you until you toss your cotton candy. This was where I rode my first roller
coaster as a child.

If you prefer seats that don’t move, and if you like baseball, then you’ll love the Toledo Mud Hens. This is the triple A minor league team for the Detroit Tigers. From Ann Arbor, it’s roughly as close as a Tigers game. Moreover, you can’t beat the cost. Tickets for a Mud Hens game are significantly less money, and you’re always guaranteed a seat close to the action. 

While watching the Hens, don’t fill up on hot dogs, though, because you’ll want to cross the street after the game and indulge in Ohio’s greatest cuisine: Tony Packo’s chili dogs. These tasty morsels are too beautiful for words (burp). And yes, they are the very same ones that Klinger used to crave on the TV show, M*A*S*H.

I hope that you are now convinced that Ohio really isn’t all that bad. Michigan has many great summer getaways, too—and I strongly encourage  thoroughly. But, if you’re up for a change of pace, the Buckeye State has a lot to offer. Just don’t tell them you’re wearing maize and blue underwear.

Keen is a free-lance writer and life-long Ann Arborite. He lives in town with his wife, Bonnie, and daughters, Gabbi (14) and Molly (10). He is the author of Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family (URJ Press). He can be reached  mya2@annarborfamily.com