February 2008 Issue
A County for All Seasons!
Recreation in Warren County lasts year-round.
It sounds like an impossible wish list, made by fun seekers desperate for recreation:
Provide one place that offers cures for cabin fever in winter; blossoms with attractions in spring; has plenty of ways to beat the heat in summer; and boasts breathtaking scenery in fall. What's more, make sure that place features activities for every age and personality type from the sort of adventurous kids who'd live at an amusement park if you'd let them, to cultured adults who love to linger amid artifacts at a historical museum.
It's a tall order, to be sure. But thankfully, there's Warren County.
Centrally located between Cincinnati and Dayton, Warren County is tailor-made for travelers in need of leisure. The region proudly calls itself Ohio's Largest Playground and visitors during any month quickly learn it's worthy of the title.
January - April
In winter and early spring, when the temperature forces us to pull on coats every morning and the forecaster still warns of chances of snow, could there be three more welcome words than an indoor waterpark resort.
They're words that have been uttered often since the arrival of Great Wolf Lodge in Warren County. The 450,000-square-foot, full-service destination resort and conference center beckons families to Mason with its mixture of world-class amenities and wet and wild fun â€” not to mention a balmy, 84-degree climate that defies Mother Nature this time of year. The log-sided resortâ€™s 11 waterslides, six pools and Northern Lights Arcadeâ„¢ promise hours of play for children, while the three restaurants, gift shop and such luxuries as Elements Spa â€” a haven of relaxation with 11 treatment rooms and plenty of services to pamper guests â€” offer countless opportunities for adults to unwind. (2501 Great Wolf Dr., Mason; 800/913-WOLF, www.greatwolflodge.com
Of course, some visitors to the area might prefer their entertainment in a drier space, and with a dash of drama. Warren County has them covered with La Comedia, the only professional dinner theater in southwest Ohio and one of the nationâ€™s largest. For more than three decades, theater lovers have made a beeline for Springboro to experience the six Broadway-style shows La Comedia stages every year, such as the high-spirited tale â€œThoroughly Modern Millie,â€� running March 6â€“April 27. Even better, La Comedia pairs its shows with a mouthwatering buffet, including the famous sweet potato soufflÃ© â€” which earns as many rave reviews as the productions. (765 W. Central Ave., Springboro; 800/677-9505, www.lacomedia.com
Warren County understands the importance of giving visitors a bit of insight into this regionâ€™s rich past. To that end, history buffs are catered to with two places that are bound to enlighten. The Springboro Historical Society Museum is the perfect destination for those interested in Underground Railroad history: The museum features maps, murals, documents and clothing related to the Underground Railroad, as well as a walking tour of the city that highlights 14 buildings that played an important role in that inspiring period. (110 S. Main St., Springboro, 937/748-0916.) Visitors to the Warren County History Center always have the opportunity to appreciate the areaâ€™s Shaker roots, featured in a seven-room display that is one of the largest presentations of Shaker artifacts in the nation. Guests this time of year are also able to revel in two events that display the best in vintage items and handcrafted works: the Lebanon Antiques Show, Jan. 19â€“20, and the Lebanon Quilt and Fabric Arts Show and Sale, Feb. 29 and March 1â€“2. (105 S. Broadway, Lebanon; 513/932-1817, www.wchsmuseum.com
After picking up a few items at those popular shows, anyone with an urge to shop can find their fill in Lebanon and Waynesville, where charming, brick-lined streets lead to more than 100 antiques and specialty shops. After all, weather is never a worry when itâ€™s time to indulge in a little retail therapy.
Between the warm sunrays and the long, leisurely days, Ohioâ€™s late spring and summer months virtually guarantee a good time.
But a region still needs to offer a range of recreational activities. Many a traveler knows the annoyance of being in a new place, enveloped by great weather but with nowhere to go.
Warren County boasts two beloved spots that know how to make the most of the sunny months. With more than 80 rides and attractions, Kings Island in Cincinnati shows what it takes to be considered royalty. From familiar favorite The Beast, still the worldâ€™s longest wooden rollercoaster after 28 years, to new flying coaster Firehawk, which hurtles riders 115 feet in the air, itâ€™s no wonder the amusement park has earned Nickelodeon Universeâ€™s designation as â€œBest Kids Area in the Worldâ€� seven years in a row. (6300 Kings Island Dr., Cincinnati; 800/288-0808, www.visitkingsisland.com
The Beach Waterpark spreads more than 40 rides and attractions over 35 acres in Mason, giving kids of all ages plenty of opportunities to splash to their heartâ€™s content. The Beach is home to the only water coaster in the Midwest, as well as Kahuna Beach Wavepool, the largest tropical beach in Ohio, where simulated ocean waves, exotic islands and swaying palm trees set a scene that looks less like the Buckeye State and more like the Caribbean. (2590 Water Park Dr., Mason; 513/398-SWIM, www.thebeachwaterpark.com
For a break from the fast-paced thrill rides, adults and children alike love the old-fashioned fun aboard the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad. Nostalgia reigns as passengers board vintage train cars and conductors share railroad history. For a more animated ride, weekend and themed excursions are available throughout the year, allowing kids to make tracks with such popular characters as Thomas the Tank Engine and Clifford the Big Red Dog. (127 S. Mechanic, Lebanon; 513/933-8022, www.lebanonrr.com
Warren Countyâ€™s beauty is on full display during spring and summer, begging outdoor enthusiasts to explore its natural treasures. Kayaks, canoes, rafts â€” The Little Miami Scenic River sees all manner of watercraft skim its surface with visitors eager to bask in the vistas of whatâ€™s been designated one of the top 10 scenic rivers in the country. (513/897-3055, www.dnr.state.oh.us
.) Meanwhile, cyclists and inline skaters know that the views are just as sumptuous on dry land, and are easily accessible thanks to The Little Miami Scenic Trail: 70 miles of paved and mostly shaded trails running along the river that offer convenient access to Lebanon and Waynesville, as well as a host of unique dining and lodging options along the way. (www.miamivalley
As the mercury rises, Warren Countyâ€™s sports scene heats up. The likes of Andy Roddick, Roger Federer and Serena Williams will be in the area for tennis tournaments Western & Southern Financial Group Masters, July 26â€“Aug. 3, and the Western & Southern Financial Group Womenâ€™s Open, Aug. 9â€“17. (5460 Courseview Dr., Mason; 513/651-0303, www.cincytennis.com
.) Professional events in the region also include the 2008 AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Cincinnati Open, Aug. 28â€“31, where Olympic gold medalists such as Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh compete for sand-court glory. (5460 Course-view Dr., Mason; 513/794-4174, www.mustseeavp.com
Even if visiting sports fans canâ€™t compete on the same level as those stars, the Shaker Run Golf Club in Lebanon at least lets them hit the links in style. The courseâ€™s original 18 holes were designed by world-renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills, and its exquisite landscape has earned Shaker Run a number of accolades â€” including a designation by Golf Digest last year as one of the â€œbest places to play,â€� and status as one of the top public courses in the state. (4361 Greentree Rd., Lebanon; 800/721-0007, www.shakerrungolfclub.com
For the truly adventurous traveler, the region offers an activity thatâ€™ll get the adrenaline pumping more than any golf game. Start Skydiving, which operates out of the Warren County Airport, has experts who carefully instruct visitors before taking them 10,000 to 13,000 feet above the earth, followed by 30 to 50 seconds of freefall. (2460 Greentree Rd., Lebanon; 513/934-3483, www.startskydiving.com
Autumn in Warren County is hard to overlook: Blazing oranges, fiery reds and golden yellows paint the foliage, creating a picture-perfect backdrop for seasonal celebrations.
Festivals in the region this time of year draw an average of 500,000 people annually â€” an impressive attendance, likely due as much to the attractive setting as to the unique atmosphere at the events. The Ohio Renaissance Festival, Aug. 30â€“Oct. 19 (weekends only), certainly fits the bill. Visitors enter a 30-acre, 16th-century English village where knights joust on horseback, swordsmen duel for bragging rights, and costumed craftsmen display ancient talents in a bustling medieval marketplace. (Renaissance Park, Harveysburg; 513/897-7000, www.renfestival.com
.) Food is the focus at the Country AppleFest in September, where offerings from area orchards promise enough apple pies and cider for everyone. (Downtown Lebanon; 513/932-6585, www.countryapplefest.com
.) And the highlight of the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, Oct. 11â€“12, is hardly a secret: items prepared with the namesake ingredient include Polish cabbage soup, German sundaes, cookies and pies. A skilled grower can even walk away with the coveted â€œmost magnificent cabbageâ€� prize. (Main St., Waynesville; 513/897-8855, www.sauerkrautfestival.com
For a change of pace, Fort Ancient State Memorial in Oregonia blends fallâ€™s beauty with the history of our state. Fort Ancient was named Ohioâ€™s first state park in 1891, and its 18,000 feet of earthen walls and ceremonial mounds â€” built by the Hopewell Indians more than 2,000 years ago â€” make it not only an educational trip, but a scenic one, too. (6123 St. Rte. 350, Oregonia; 800/283-8904, www.ohiohistory.org/places/ftancien
As autumn finally gives way to winter, the first snowflakes signal the start of the holiday season. Thanksgiving dinner at The Golden Lamb Inn and Restaurant is a tradition for many area residents, drawn to the idea of sharing quality time with loved ones amid the elegance of Ohioâ€™s oldest inn. (27 S. Broadway, Lebanon; 513/932-5065, www.goldenlamb.com
.) The Golden Lamb is also one of the best spots in town for viewing the Lebanon Horse-Drawn Carriage Parade and Christmas Festival on the first Saturday in December. The eventâ€™s two parades â€” one in the afternoon, the other in the evening by candlelight â€” are the largest of their kind in the country, and the spectacle of strolling carolers and 100 horse-drawn antique carriages passing in front of the historic Golden Lamb feels like a trip back in time. (Downtown Lebanon; 513/932-1100, www.lebanonchamber.org
.) The Charles Dickens-inspired Waynesville Christmas Village, Dec. 5â€“7, specializes in that mood. Activities are steeped in a Victorian theme, and include a nighttime luminary display. (Downtown Waynesville; 513/897-8855, www.waynesvilleohio.com
With festivities now in full swing, the Kings Mills General Store & Christmas Shop is alight with holiday spirit, continuing its more than 20-year tradition of supplying Warren County with Christmas cheer. (5687 Columbia Rd., Kings Mills; 800/327-5639, www.kingschristmas.com
.) And although visiting a summertime destination this season may sound a bit surreal, Holiday Fest at The Beach Waterpark is a well-known winter stop. A 7,500-square-foot outdoor ice-skating rink, a live nativity, the Polar Express train â€” a visit to The Beach is a festive way to conclude the year, and a perfect example of the year-round fun available in Warren County.