January 2007 Issue
Best of Ohio
Start the new year with a resolution to discover the beauty, adventure, and fun of Ohio. The following are 55 of our favorite events, attractions, restaurants, museums, parks, and more. Enjoy!
Bob Beasley, Rachael Brugger, Clare DeCapua, Jessica Esemplare, Linda Feagler, Jennifer Haliburton, Vivian Popisil, Renee Rall, Ron Rollins, and Felix Winternitz
Best Place to Mill Around >
It's easy to appreciate the Clifton Mill for its quaint beauty and historical charm, but what really makes it special is that it is one of fewer than 100 mills still operating in the United States. The original structure, perched above the Little Miami River and the Clifton Gorge, was built in 1802. After several owners and a period of inactivity, the mill was restored into what is now the largest and oldest water-powered gristmill in the country. Stop by for tours and a bite to eat in the on-premises restaurant. 75 Water St., Clifton, 937/767-5501, www.cliftonmill.com.
Best Tailgating Fare
For those who like to tailgate but don't want the hassle of hauling a grill to the game, let City Barbeque do the cooking. This joint's mouth-watering beef brisket and pulled pork provide the perfect pregame spread. Throw in a side of macaroni and cheese and some cornbread and you just might miss the first quarter. Multiple locations, www.citybbq.com.
Best Place to Take Your Tyke
Tucked between the sprawling Columbus suburbs of Hilliard and Dublin is a parent's best friend - 44 acres of free fun for the little ones. The Homestead has more than enough swings and slides to satisfy any youthful appetite for adventure, but the fort and water playground are the main attractions at this picture-perfect park that pays homage to the area's agricultural and railroad heritage. 4675 Cosgray Rd., Washington Township, www.washingtontownshipoh.us/parks/homestead.asp.
Best Place for a Midday Perk
While many of the 9-to-5ers in downtown Columbus still flock to that Seattle-based caffeine machine for an afternoon jolt, you'll always find a crowd of informed locals at Cafe Brioso, which roasts its own beans to produce some mighty tasty brews. It's not all about the bean, though. Brioso's deli sandwiches, particularly on their fresh-baked foccacia bread, keep 'em coming back for more. 14 E. Gay St., Columbus, 614/228-8366, www.cafebrioso.com.
Best Christmas in July
The weather on Lake Erie may be warm, but you'll think it's the most wonderful time of the year as the carousel plays familiar carols and the islanders deck the town of Put-in-Bay in red and green. Santa smiles from lampposts as the holiday parade meanders through the streets. And even the harbor shines as boaters boast tinsel and twinkling lights. Christmas may be six months away, but you'll be sure to catch a bit of holiday cheer. www.put-in-bay.com.
< Best Torte
Photo Courtesy of the Bonbonerie
The dreamy opera cream torte at The Bonbonerie bakery in Cincinnati's O'Bryonville commercial district is difficult to resist, impossible to classify.
2030 Madison Rd., Cincinnati, 513/321-3399, www.bonbonerie.com.
Best Academic Tradition
Not every public school has the means and motivation to help students "Rise to the Highest." But Walnut Hills, a 111-year-old college prep, public high school in Cincinnati, encourages students to follow its Latin motto, "Sursum ad Summum." Walnut Hills' curriculum follows the classical design of East Coast preparatory schools; this, combined with a diverse student body, highly trained faculty and many AP courses, helps create successful graduates such as Ric Bucher of ESPN, conductor James Levine and contemporary artist Jim Dine. 3250 Victory Pkwy., 513/363-8400, http://whhs.cps-k12.org.
Best Frozen Fruit
When Firelands Winery winemaker Claudio Salvador left his native Italy more than 25 years ago, ice wine was better known as "eiswein," the German name for this richly sweet dessert wine that was then largely a German product. Lucky for us, Salvador is one of a growing number of Ohio winemakers whose efforts have captured the palates of discerning dessert-wine drinkers. Last summer, Salvador took home top honors for his Firelands 2005 Vidal Ice Wine at major wine competitions in California and Michigan. 917 Bardshar Rd, Sandusky, 419/625-5474, 800/548-WINE (9463), www.firelandswinery.com.
Best Place to See a Film >
A bucket of popcorn and a large soda aren't the only snack choices at the Drexel Theatres in Columbus. And if you think you're going to see the typical Hollywood blockbusters here, fahgetaboutit. Drexels show independent films from around the world, which you may choose to enjoy with a glass of wine, cup of tea or gourmet dessert. Taking in a movie at these theaters is box office luxury. www.drexel.net.
Best Free Ticket
Year in and year out, one of the most sought-after tickets in college football is the one that gets you through the gates at Ohio Stadium to see the Buckeyes. For the lucky few selected as volunteer ushers, admission is free - not bad compensation if you don't mind working while you watch your favorite team roll to victory. Want on the waiting list? Call the Ohio State Athletics Department at 614/292-1848.
The classy Pan-Asian atmosphere only accentuates the handmade Japanese delicacies that you'll enjoy at Tyfoon in Columbus' Short North neighborhood. The chef has concocted 20 of his own specialty rolls, including a selection featuring the rare fatty tuna. This is a feast for both your stomach and your eyes. Order the dragon roll, and you'll be served a dragon-shaped delicacy. With a large order, your sushi will be served on a bridge or wooden boat. 106 Vine St., Columbus, 614/224-9219.
Best Cream Puff
In 1986, the mayor of Columbus jokingly deemed the Schmidt's cream puff the eighth wonder of the world. One bite of this trademark dessert and you're likely to agree. If you don't think you have room for more after a feast of sausage and potatoes at this German Village restaurant, take a turn around the polka floor, then order yourself a baseball-sized cream puff. It's the closest you'll get to Germany without leaving the state. 240 East Kossuth St., 614/444-6808, www.schmidthaus.com.
Best Stacks With a Story
Ohio bibliophiles should be proud to know that we are home to the first county library in the United States. Dedicated in 1901, the Brumback Library in Van Wert holds that distinction. No expense was spared in the building of the imposing Gothic and Romanesque structure, which boasts turreted towers, a Ludowici tile roof and a surrounding park. 215 W. Main St., Van Wert, 419/238-2168, www.brumbacklib.com.
< Best Place to Get Pumped Up
For a few days every year, Columbus gets a little leaner and everybody brushes up on their Terminator impressions. This year, Gov. Schwarzenegger brings his Arnold Classic fitness extravaganza to the capital city March 2-4. With arm-wrestling, power-lifting and bodybuilding events on the bill, it's all about the muscle.
Best Spot to Step into Spring
Whether you're a wildflower fan or a dedicated birder, Forrest Woods Nature Preserve in Paulding County is unequivocally awesome for getting that first taste of spring. The 193-acre preserve houses more than 350 plant species and 130 bird species and is the largest undisturbed portion of the Great Black Swamp. The trick is finding it. Would-be walkers should contact the Black Swamp Conservancy for permission and directions, since the property is still being developed and lacks signage and marked trails. 419/872-5263, www.blackswamp.org.
When Buckeye Lake was transformed from a swamp into a lake in 1826, a significant portion of the cranberry-sphagnum bog broke loose from the bottom and floated to the surface. The Cranberry Bog is now a state nature preserve and a National Natural Landmark. The Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society offers tours of the bog by appointment and holds a public open house every June when visitors can take a guided hike on the bog's boardwalk trail. The Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society, 4729 Walnut Rd., Hebron, 740/929-1998.
Best Reason to Dust Off Your Running Shoes >
Pamplona, Spain, may have the running of the bulls, but Cincinnati has its very own running of the ... pigs? That's right. Every year, runners pull out their plastic snouts for the Flying Pig Marathon. Not only do these athletes have fun, they can also use their time to qualify for the Boston Marathon. This year's event is on May 6. 513/721-PIGS www.flyingpigmarathon.com.
Best Asian Treat
Think coffee shop meets arcade. Then add an Asian pop culture twist. That's Momo KTV in Columbus. This restaurant's specialty is bubble tea: a drink combining a fruit smoothie, tea or milk with chewy marble-sized tapioca pearls, known as bubbles. While sipping through an oversized straw, watch Japanese music videos on the shop's plasma screen TVs. Or if you're daring, request a karaoke room and become a rock star for the evening. 2895 Olentangy River Rd., 614/784-0888.
Best Vintage Buys
"Thrifting" has become a pop-culture phenomenon of the retail world, but take a trip to Athens Underground and you'll find yourself in the creme de la creme of thrift stores. This shop separates its vintage apparel by decade and offers additional finds such as hats, books, postcards and household items. Whether you're looking for a groovy costume or an eccentric item to add to your wardrobe, you'll probably find it here. 90 N. Court St., Athens, 740/592-6286.
Best Winter Treat for Art Lovers
"Andrew Wyeth Watercolors and Drawings," a selection from the Marunuma Collection in Japan, opens at the Cincinnati Art Museum on February 3 and runs through May 6. 953 Eden Park Drive, 513/721-2787, www.cincinnatiARTmuseum.org.
Best Place to Tell Ghost Stories
They say her blood still stains the floor of the insane asylum's attic where she died alone. Some say she even comes back to haunt this very spot. You're likely to hear this story and more if you dare to trek up to The Ridges in Athens, which looms over the Hocking River. In the town of Halloween, where ghost stories run rampant, the abandoned tuberculosis ward and unmarked graves of this former mental hospital offer thrills to college students and town folk alike.
< Best Gourmet Destination
Jean-Robert at Pigall's in Cincinnati, featuring the fare of chef Jean-Robert de Cavel, is the state's only Mobil four-star restaurant. Jean-Robert's serves three-course dinners that begin at $74, but lunch (served Thursdays and Fridays only) can be had for a more modest $28. A sample entree: buffalo shank ravioli with rutabaga, velvet piopini mushrooms, sherry sauce and Parmesan cream. 127 W. Fourth St., 513/721-1345, www.jean-robertatpigalls.com.
Best Underwater Adventure
Lake Erie is home to some of the most fascinating shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. For a price and with a little training, shipwreck buffs can explore them by contacting Discovery Dive Charters & Tours, Inc. at Wildwood Marina in Cleveland. Most of the wrecks are intact and naturally preserved, because the fresh water keeps the ships from corroding. The company encourages recreational divers of all levels to take the plunge. 16975 Wildwood Dr., Cleveland, 216/481-5771.
Best Healthy Treat
Attention veggie lovers: Check out the extensive salad bar found at Ingredients (some assembly required), a new restaurant fronting the recently renovated Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati. Choose from exotic toppings that range from roasted eggplant and hearts of palm to grilled salmon and shrimp, then add vinaigrettes such as sesame ginger or roasted garlic, or try the lemon avocado dressing. All this, and a view, too. 21 E. Fifth St., 513/852-2740, www.ingredientsforyou.com.
Best Transformation of a Parking Lot >
The Toledo Museum of Art's new Glass Pavilion is a stunning jewel box encasing a world-renowned glass collection. The building's site, directly across the street from the main museum building, was formerly a surface lot for visitors. Now, glass-walled galleries house works ranging from a Dale Chihuly chandelier to an exquisite cut-glass Libbey punch bowl and glass artifacts from ancient times. At the center of the structure is a working hot shop where artists create glittering objects throughout the day. 2445 Monroe St., Toledo, 419/255-8000, www.toledomuseum.org.
Best Way to Dress Up a Wall
Wouldn't it be terrific to instantly fill vacant storefronts with thriving retail? A business association in College Hill, just north of Cincinnati, is doing just that. As part of a "fantasy business" public art project titled Discover the Avenue, the organization is commissioning storefront murals that depict the kinds of businesses that residents have said they want to see in the neighborhood. The first, a fantasy ice cream shop painted by artist Katie St. Clair, premiered in November. 5838 Hamilton Ave., 513/588-6465.
Best Old-Time Shake Shop
The Main Street Soda Grill is right in the center of downtown Vermilion at 5502 Liberty Avenue. It's a quaint, friendly, old-fashioned soda shop from the 1930s that features delicious handmade shakes, malts, egg cremes and yummy phosphates that are pure vintage and a wonderfully cool blast from the past. The atmosphere is completed by shelves crammed with snappy 1950s artifacts. 440/967-4002.
Best Path of Patriotism
Politics may divide us, but the pride stirred by the sight of our nation's strongest symbol is where all Americans achieve common ground. Which is why, with 500 sets of stars and stripes swaying high, the Boulevard of 500 Flags in Eastlake is possibly the most patriotic path you will ever walk. This powerful tribute is the largest permanent exhibit of its kind in the United States, and represents the city's residents who have served in wartime. 35150 Lake Shore Blvd. (at the Eastlake City Hall), 440/951-1416. www.eastlakeohio.com.
< Best Flighty Concept
The new Tri-State Warbird Museum features a P-51D Mustang, an AT-6D Texas trainer, a TBM-3 Avenger torpedo bomber, a twin-engine B-25 Mitchell bomber, a Corsair fighter and more. Also on display: an English barracks resembling something out of "12 O'Clock High."
The museum is located at the Clermont County Airport in Batavia. 513/735-4500, www.tri-statewarbirdmuseum.org.
Best Private Public Space
Alms Park sits high above Cincinnati in Mt. Lookout, protected by a canopy of trees. Nature lovers can hike and observe panoramic views of downtown, Kentucky, and the Little Miami and Ohio rivers, while those who seek solitude can read in the Renaissance-inspired pavilion. History buffs will appreciate the remains of a pre-Civil War wine cellar and the knowledge that the park was a Native American hideout. But the real beauty of Alms lies in its privacy - because more accessible parks surround it, fewer people venture there. 710 Tusculum Ave., www.cincinnati-oh.gov/parks/.
Best Oasis of Green
It's hard to imagine anything good blossoming from the cold, hard ground where two children lost their lives. In 2005, Brandon Davis, 11, and Lennard Pinson, 16, were shot in a vacant lot on Cleveland's east side - victims of both the killers' bullets and of the poverty that has bred such violent crimes. But this May, the lot will become The Lonnie Burten Learning Garden, courtesy of the Cleveland Botanical Garden's Green Corps program, which teaches horticultural knowledge and provides jobs to local teens. At-risk youth become entrepreneurs by growing crops in this living classroom, producing food products and marketing them to the public. It will be the third such garden CBG has created in Cleveland, sprouting promise in a spot once steeped in pain. Near the Lonnie Burten Recreation Center, 2511 E. 46th St., Cleveland.
Best Place to See How Geology Works >
Some places on the Earth's surface make it easy, simple and fun to see and understand the forces that shaped our world. Take, for instance, the rugged Glacial Grooves on the north side of Kelleys Island in Lake Erie, which are billed as the biggest such formation in the world that's easily visited. The limestone bedrock was scarred some 18,000 years ago by the massive Ice Age glaciers that carved up so much of Ohio. Today you can see gouges that are 400 feet long, 35 feet wide and up to 10 feet deep. There are fossils to be seen, but don't fall in!
Best Place to Get Your Greens
Our fast-food nation could learn a thing or two at Veggie U in Milan. Already purveyors of naturally grown produce and herbs, The Chef's Garden and Culinary Vegetable Institute founded Veggie U to teach kids about healthy eating habits, with fourth-graders as its target. Top chefs from around the country come in for classes and activities to help Veggie U change the way the world eats, one fourth-grader at a time. 419/499-7500, www.veggieu.org.
Best Bike Ride
You can break out the bike anyplace in the state, of course, but we think you'll have the most fun, the finest scenery and the straightest shot along the Little Miami Scenic River Bikeway, which runs almost from Cincinnati to Columbus, some 70 miles through lovely countryside with convenience stations all along the route. We especially like the 10-mile stretch between Xenia and Yellow Springs, picturesque on both ends and delightful the whole way in between. www.miamivalleytrails.org/miami.htm.
Best Edgy Art Fest
Cincinnati's 20/20 Festival likens itself to "a Spoleto on steroids." The 20 days and 20 nights of artsy, irreverent and fringe fun takes place at dozens of different stages, museums, galleries, clubs and parks. The early autumn fest features anything from wild performance art and hip poetry parties to sexy Latin jazz and raucous Polynesian Goth dancing (don't ask). 513/621-4700. www.20days20nights.com.
< Best Place to Discover the Next Monet
Ohio certainly has no shortage of creative enclaves and cultural events, and we support our artists, musicians and innovators with relish. Lovers of all things artistic should take note: Sparx in the City - a downtown Cleveland initiative supporting arts and culture - brings us the largest art walk in the state. In the heart of downtown and in surrounding neighborhoods, the work of more than 500 artists is on display in galleries, studios and museums. Look for this year's fifth annual Sparx in the City in late summer. www.cleveland.com/sparx.
Best Magic Act
The private magic museum, Salon de Magie, run by Loveland collector Ken Klosterman, houses thousands of tricks, illusions, hidden passageways, secret rooms and the complete library of Harry Houdini. The best way to wrangle an invite? Get involved in Klosterman's annual "Abracadabra!" fund-raiser for Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park, which features a week of magic shows. Presto, chango! www.salondemagie.com.
Best Bite of Nostalgia
Once the darling of dessert tables, the bundt cake relinquished its spot years ago to give other confections their 15 minutes. But Joyce Wells, owner of the Eatmor Bundt Company in Mansfield, is out to bring bundt back. With her never-ending selection, including cinna-bundts, buckeye bundts and double chocolate chunk bundts, plus her willingness to custom create, we sense a comeback. Did we mention she ships? 105 N. Main St., 419/525-2868, www.eatmorbundt.com.
Best Museum Makeover >
The Akron Art Museum has come a long way from its humble beginnings in the basement of the public library in 1922. The museum's new facility, scheduled to open this summer, boasts more than 21,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and a design by world-renowned architecture firm, Coop Himmelb(l)au. Amenities include high-tech classrooms, a children's gallery, a museum gift shop and a cafe.
70 E. Market St., Akron, 330/376-9185.
Best Place to Channel Your Inner Child
Ah, those culinary memories of our youth: slurping on bowls of pastel-colored cereal at breakfast, slicing into hunks of mom's homemade meatloaf at dinner. For those eager to relive tasty childhood experiences, Melt in Lakewood specializes in the lunchtime fare that we all clamored for as kids: the grilled-cheese sandwich. This "Bar and Grilled" offers plenty of creative spin-offs of the traditional meal, including the "Wake & Bacon," which adds a fried egg and bacon strips to the sandwich. However, purists appreciate "The Kindergarten": your favorite melted cheeses oozing from between two thick slices of hearty white Italian bread. 14718 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216/226-3699, www.meltbarandgrilled.com.
Best Place to Make a Scene
Downtown Cleveland, which has a starring role in the Tobey Maguire-Kirsten Dunst movie, "Spider-Man 3." The Euclid Avenue streetscape served as the setting for a range of action-packed stunts, including car chases and fiery crashes that left passersby agog and the city ready for yet another close-up. The movie is scheduled to open in theaters May 4.
< Best Wild Ride
Leave it to Cedar Point to reach new heights - or should we say a new frontier? - when the amusement park's 17th roller coaster, Maverick, debuts in May. The ultra-sleek coaster doesn't waste any time giving riders a thrill: Passengers ascend that first heart-stopping 105-foot-high hill ... and then plummet down to Earth at a 95-degree angle at speeds of up to 57 mph. They come within five feet of the ground before twisting around hairpin turns that are most definitely not for the faint of heart. One Cedar Point Dr., Sandusky, 419/627-2350, www.cedarpoint.com.
Best Offbeat Memorial
Ohio is dotted with memorials to long-forgotten and often unusual historical happenings. One of the oddest, however, must be the monument in Gallipolis to a disease. In City Park downtown, not far from the Ohio River, there is a tall stone and metal memorial to the lethal outbreak of yellow fever in the city in 1878. The plague was transmitted by passengers on a steamboat that just happened to break down in Gallipolis. Plaques at the site bear the names of the local dead - and topping the monument, weirdest of all, is the actual engine piece that broke, causing the ill-fated stop.
Best Port Stroll
Spending an afternoon in the small, pretty city of Vermilion is a fine thing - there's the Great Lakes Museum, a lively downtown, a dandy little beach and lots to see and do. A leisurely stroll around the lakefront harbor, full of sailboats and other pleasurecraft, is a wonderful way to appreciate Lake Erie's beauty. In the area known as Harbour Town 1837, you'll find antiques shops, bed-and-breakfasts, fine and casual dining, jewelry and specialty shops, chocolates, an art gallery and lots of history. Public docks make the spot boat-accessible, too. www.vermilionohio.com.