Not long ago a clickbait-type ad surfaced on my Facebook feed, suggesting I click through to learn all about a dynamic cultural urban powerhouse emerging in an unlikely city stuck inexorably in flyover country. Well, I’m living here in the great American midwest, and given my goal to find great things for teens to get into no matter where they roam, I, um, clicked. For my readers’ sake, I wanted to discover just where this magical midwestern metropolis could be.
Much Ado about Much!
This special city ended up being Fort Wayne, Indiana, population 264,000. As it happens, an old friend lives there and had recently invited us to visit and enjoy one of his band’s live music gigs. Who could say no to catching up, savoring some classic, live tunes and getting away for an overnight with the world’s best daughter? Looking forward to confirming any and all claims from the aforementioned clickbait, my daughter, Holland, and I planned to stuff as much activity into our 24-hour sojourn in Fort Wayne as we could. Should you ever find yourself with the occasion to visit this charming city, I hope Holland’s travelog below helps you discover some of the fun to be had!
“The Ohio State University… and the insignificant environs over which it forever reigns” would probably be an apt moniker for Columbus, the capital of Ohio. With a population of over 850,000, there’s a lot going on within the city and off campus, even though die-hard Buckeye fans might think otherwise. Cee-bus, as we like to call it in Ohio, will entertain you even if you don’t bleed OSU’s famous crimson and gray. The good stuff can be a little difficult to find, but that’s what I’m here for.
Columbus’ own science museum is called the Center of Science and Industry, or COSI (pronounced “Co-Sigh”). Much of it is geared towards younger folks, but there are cool exhibits for all ages of both permanent and temporary varieties. My favorite is the “Progress” exhibit, which entices the visitor on a fun pathway of technology from the years 1898 and 1962. Movies on the Giant Screen Theatre and multiple live shows are available multiple times per day. We recommend visiting as early in the day as possible. On weekends the cavernous hall fills up rapidly with families; weekdays see the usual school groups. Buy your tickets online and avoid the line!
I’m seriously not sure that any visit to Ohio’s capital city would be complete without a stop at its world famous ColumbusZoo. Its famous former director, Jack Hanna, still films here and greets guests as his schedule permits! Plan on a full day of walking and enjoying the magnificent animal exhibits and aquarium. Summertime, and the animals would rather snooze in the summer heat than entertain you? No worries! Take the time – and extra expense – to chill out at the water park adjacent to the zoo, Zoombezi Bay.
Now that you’ve sampled the animal delights at the zoo grounds, why not take an afternoon experiencing life up in the air the way the monkeys do? Columbus offers a magnificent opportunity to do just that at the ZipZone. According to the attraction’s website, “The (ZipZone) adventure park is a series of platforms in the trees connected by ladders, bridges, ropes, ziplines and obstacles of every kind, all situated in a beautiful forest on the edge of the city.” Be sure to carefully peruse the park’s website for more information on making reservations, what happens during inclement weather, what to do if you’re afraid of heights, etc.
Looking for a casual, inexpensive day out? An outstanding, partially forested lake and park facility is located within the city of Columbus itself at Sharon Woods Metro Park. Locals and tourists alike come here to marvel at the great outdoors along its many paved and unpaved trails, perfect for biking, jogging, hiking, picnicking and strolling. Fishing in the lake is encouraged if you are 15 or younger. If you’re visiting the capital city with Fido, he is more than welcome here (on a leash, natch).
Would it be a shocker to admit that my intellectually remarkable kids get tired of cultural museums when we travel? As their Mom, I get tired of trying to keep them entertained while simultaneously helping them glean an appreciation of the exhibits. The Columbus Museum of Art to the rescue! Many of the permanent displays in this compact museum hail from world-famous artists of modern eras. If that weren’t enough to warm the cockles of your art sophisticate self, the museum overflows with interactive displays and miniature hands-on art endeavors for kids of all ages to get into. Our family had a lot of fun building pipe cleaner sculptures on a particularly memorable Sunday. Kudos to this fabulous place for truly having something for everyone and working tirelessly (!) to intensify kids’ creativity. [Read more here about my artistic daughter and me roadtripping to the museum in January, 2018!]
It’s a huge stretch to denote German Village as a Columbus cultural must-see. But Imma do it anyway, at least if you promise to visit Schmidt’s Sausage Haus. Splurge on their buffet, which they call the “German Autobahn Buffet,” when you’re super hungry, and sample the multitudes of German wursts begging for a taste. The so-called “Bahama Mama” is an especially delectable version, which you can enjoy while pondering its mysteriously-nicknamed Caribbean island moniker. Another challenge: saving enough room to split a half-pound cream puff! Ja, das ist sehr gut!
Once you’ve busted a gut at the ‘Haus, do shop for German candies and knickknacks at the gift shop across the parking lot in front of the restaurant. Then, be sure to stroll through German Village and enjoy its historic architecture and atmosphere. The neighborhood, while lovely, seems to have little other than Schmidt’s that reminds one visually, or viscerally, of any past travels to Deutschland. Nevertheless, the area is unique, and a welcome diversion from the monochromatic, cookie-cutter McMansions so popular in today’s exurbia. Which kind of neighborhood would you prefer to live in?
I don’t want to hear how much you hate to read. You only think so because your ELA teacher forces you to read a particular classic instead of whatever graphic novel series is currently in vogue. Luckily, you WILL find graphic novels, classic tomes, and more than you ever dreamed of at the fabulous Book Loft located in the heart of the German Village. It has, I kid you not, 32 (yes, 32) actual ROOMS of every kind of book imaginable. It’s just an amazing place to “get lost” – in a book – in a bookstore.
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