April 2009 Issue
Adventures in Warren County
Come out and play in Ohio’s largest playground.
It’s almost hard to believe that one area can have such a wide variety of things to do. From family-friendly attractions that will entertain even the shortest of attention spans to great restaurants sure to please all palates, Warren County has it all. As for history buffs and outdoors enthusiasts, the area — rich in both historical and natural resources — has you covered, too. The region could be considered the heart of southwest Ohio, both for its widespread appeal and for being conveniently located almost exactly between Cincinnati and Dayton. And for those farther away, the diverse array of fun things to see and do will certainly be worth the drive. Welcome to Ohio’s Largest Playground.
Whether you’re looking for a way to kick the winter doldrums or for some warm-weather fun, get the kids and head to Warren County for a family getaway.
Children of all ages or just the young at heart will love the theme park Kings Island, which offers more than 80 exciting rides and attractions. This year, a new roller coaster, Diamondback, adds to that count. The coaster treats thrill-seekers to an 80-mile-per-hour ride. The younger set may prefer spending their day in Nickelodeon™ Universe, named Amusement Today’s
“Best Kids Area in the World” for eight straight years. (6300 Kings Island Dr., Mason, 800/288-0808. www.visitkingsisland.com
Nearby is the official resort of Kings Island: the woodsy-themed Great Wolf Lodge. The 78,000-square-foot family resort and indoor water park offers the perfect way for the kids to continue the thrills while the grown-ups wind down. If splashing in six pools and shooting down 11 waterslides doesn’t keep the kids happy, the Northern Lights Arcade, Cub Club nature activities and nightly story time probably will. While they’re occupied, parents in need of some rest and relaxation can stop in Elements Spa for facials and massages. Or bring the kids with you for a manicure or pedicure at the Scooops children’s spa. Be sure to pick up a few souvenirs in the gift shop and grab a bite to eat in one of three on-site restaurants, decorated with outdoor motifs. (2501 Great Wolf Dr., Mason, 800/913-WOLF. www.greatwolflodge.com
Prefer your water escapades in a tropical island setting? The Beach Waterpark recreates an authentic oceanfront paradise right here in Ohio, complete with white ocean sand, live palm trees and crashing waves, sprawling over 35 acres. Its more than 40 water rides and attractions guarantee that there’s something fun for every member of the family. (2590 Waterpark Dr., Mason, 513/398-SWIM. www.thebeachwaterpark.com
People of all ages love strapping on high-tech gear and manning a laser gun at Lazer Kraze, the area’s largest laser tag facility. The high-tech game space has several levels and, like stepping into a video game, players can gain special powers and rack up points. (3187 Western Row, Maineville, 513/339-1030. www.lazerkraze.com
If your family is more artistically inclined, stop at La Comedia Dinner Theatre. La Comedia has been treating guests and residents of Warren County with top-notch entertainment for more than 30 years. And the food is as popular as the shows — selections on the theater’s mouth-watering buffet include the famous sweet potato soufflé. The choices on the current playbill include family-friendly shows like “Disney’s High School Musical,” running May 7–July 5, and “Annie,” playing July 9–Aug. 30. Visit La Comedia’s Web site for the full 2009 schedule. (765 W. Central Ave., Springboro, 800/677-9506. www.lacomedia.com
Keep things low-key with a nostalgic trip on the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad. The railroad offers weekend and themed rides, including some featuring popular kids’ characters like Thomas the Tank Engine and Clifford the Big Red Dog. (127 S. Mechanic, Lebanon, 513/933-8022. www.lebanonrr.com
Adventurers can head to Warren County’s great outdoors for a wide variety of fun. For exploration and education, check out the area’s newest attraction, the Ozone Zipline Adventure, opening Memorial Day weekend. The full-canopy tour will consist of nine ziplines connecting Camp Kern and Fort Ancient State Park, and will take participants along 10,000 feet of scenic valleys, ravines and portions of the Little Miami River Valley. Along the way, tour guides will share information about Ohio history, ecology and culture as riders soar up to 170 feet in the air. (5291 St. Rte. 350, Oregonia, 513/932-3756. www.ozonezips.org
The truly brave can jump out of a plane flying 10,000 to 13,000 feet above ground at Start Skydiving at the Warren County Airport. Too scared to try it alone? Start with tandem skydives where you jump with a group or individual. Regardless, the 30 to 50 seconds of free falling will keep your heart pounding. (2460 Greentree Rd., Lebanon, 513/934-DIVE. www.startskydiving.com
For those who would prefer to keep their feet on the ground, Shaker Run Golf Club offers the opportunity to tee off in an award-winning locale. Since the original 18 holes were designed by renowned golf course architect Arthur Hills, it’s no wonder that Golf Digest
ranked Shaker Run one of the best places to play in 2007, and one of the top 100 public courses in the country. (4361 Greentree Rd., Lebanon, 513/727-0007. www.shakerrungolfclub.com
Hikers, bikers and other nature lovers can relax at scenic Caesar Creek State Park. The 7,900-acre park offers educational naturalist programs, plenty of trails and a convenient campground. (8570 E. St. Rte. 73, Waynesville, 513/897-3055. caesarcreekstatepark.com
While canoeing and rafting is popular along the Little Miami Scenic River, the best way to enjoy its pristine beauty may be from the Little Miami Scenic Trail. The paved and mostly shaded trail follows the river for 78 miles. Cyclists, inline skaters and those on foot love the scenery as much as the easy access to the historic communities of Lebanon and Waynesville, as well as the unique dining and lodging options they offer. (www.miamivalleytrails.org
Travelers along the trail are bound to get tired while on the lengthy trek. Luckily, there are a number of lodging options. The century-old River Walker Bed & Breakfast in Oregonia offers a comfortable respite from your travels with a convenient location — 100 feet from the trail. Or rest your head in one of the four elegant Victorian homes that comprise Hardy’s Bed & Breakfast Suites in Lebanon. Wind down after a long day with on-site massage therapy and tea. Tucked in the heart of Waynesville is the charming, 200-year-old Hammel House Inn, where weary cyclists can stay the night in a location that once hosted president Martin Van Buren.
Refuel at one of many eateries near the trail, including The Corwin Peddler in Waynesville, which serves up everything from healthy eats to ice cream, and even offers bike rentals. For a little entertainment, scope out artwork while waiting to refuel at The Galleries on Broadway, a combination art gallery, coffee shop and eatery in Lebanon.
When it’s time for a sweet treat, the Double Dip beckons with homemade ice cream, as well as pizza and sandwiches. Or choose from a variety of frozen goodies at Miranda’s Old Time Ice Cream Shop in Morrow. Chocoholics should not miss the decadent sweets at Golden Turtle Chocolate Factory in Lebanon.
End your day on the trail by browsing through furniture, porcelain and period art at Miller’s Antique Market in Lebanon. Check out www.ohioslargestplayground.com/warren-county-bike-trails
for further information on these and other must-see spots near the trail.
Explore the past
A trip to Warren County is like traveling back in time for history lovers. Start your adventure with a stop at Fort Ancient State Memorial, an 18,000-foot, earthen-wall structure, with mounds that are believed to have been used for ceremonial purposes when built by the Hopewell Indians more than 2,000 years ago. Fort Ancient was named Ohio’s first state park in 1891 and was designated a state memorial in 1936. It may soon be known as a destination of historical value on par with such landmarks as Stonehenge and The Great Wall of China — a designation of World Heritage Site is being pursued for the memorial. (6123 St. Rte. 350, Oregonia, 800/283-8904. www.ohiohistory.org
Fast forward through time to learn about the Underground Railroad at the Springboro Historical Society Museum. Containing artifacts that detail the period in history, the museum also offers walking tours of the city, featuring 14 buildings that played a part in the movement. Costumed re-enactors are available for groups of 10 or more. (110 S. Main St., Springboro, 937/748-0916.)
Another important part of regional history is displayed prominently at the Warren County History Center. The center’s renowned collection of Shaker artifacts is considered one of the best in the Midwest and includes many items from Union Village — the first and largest Shaker community west of the Allegheny Mountains, established in 1805. (105 S. Broadway, Lebanon, 513/932-1817. www.wchsmuseum.org
History meets art in the city of Franklin. With three indoor murals (at St. Mary Church, Pisanello’s Pizza and in the children’s section of the Franklin Public Library) and six outdoor murals — and a seventh by artist Eric Henn due this year — there’s a reason the town is known as the “city of murals.”
For an appropriate wrap to this tour of local history, retire for the night at The Golden Lamb. The inn and restaurant, built in 1815, is the oldest still-operating business in Ohio. The Golden Lamb is nearly as popular for its famous roast leg of lamb with mint jelly as its prominent clientele: Its hopitality has been enjoyed by 12 U.S. presidents, including James A. Garfield and George W. Bush, as well as Mark Twain. (27 S. Broadway, Lebanon, 513/932-5065. www.goldenlamb.com
For the Ladies
Grab your best girlfriend and take a ladies-only trip to Warren County for some serious bonding. Prepare to engage in some retail therapy:
The streets of the charming towns of Lebanon and Waynesville are bursting with more than 100 antiques shops and boutiques selling everything from Tiffany lamps to Vera Bradley bags. After all, the county is known as the “Antiques Capital of the Midwest” for a reason.
Looking for somewhere a bit more contemporary? Upscale mall Deerfield Towne Center offers 65 national stores, several spas and a movie theater. After working up an appetite from strolling through the open-air shopping center, stop in one of many on-site restaurants for a bite to eat. (5305 Deerfield Blvd., Mason, 513/770-0273. www.shopdeerfieldtownecenter.com
The mall will soon be joined by another venue offering high-quality stores: Cincinnati Premium Outlets is set to open this summer in Monroe. Its 120 upscale outlet stores are guaranteed to excite recessionistas looking for a deal.
After a day of shopping, nourish your body nearby at The Wildflower Café & Coffee House. With a menu focusing on only the freshest of ingredients, including many organic options, fresh fish, wild mushrooms and herbs and heirloom veggies from the café’s own garden, this spot is certain to appeal to the health conscious. (207 E. Main St., Mason, 513/492-7514. www.wildflowercafeandcoffeehouse.com
Another perfect ending to a girls’ day out is the Cobblestone Village Café and Gift Shop. The creatively presented dishes include vegetarian options, entrees, salads, soup and more — all made with organic, homegrown herbs and produce. (10 N. Main St., Waynesville, 513/897-0021. www.cobblestonevillageandcafe.com
After refueling, head to the Little Miami River for an afternoon of canoeing, kayaking, hiking and biking along the trail. There are plenty of places to assist with your adventure, including the Little Miami Canoe Rental, Loveland Canoe & Kayak, Morgan’s Canoe and Outdoor Center, Inc., and River’s Edge Outfitters. Or take a walking tour of Warren County’s historic neighborhoods, including downtown Springboro or Waynesville to learn about these valuable stops along the Underground Railroad.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS
Throughout the year, there’s plenty to experience in Warren County. Come to Kings Island May 23–24 for the Action Sports World Tour, where freestyle BMX bikers, professional skateboarders and motocross racers compete for a championship title.
The best tennis players on tour will serve up some world-class action in Warren County as the top men’s and premier-level women’s players compete in the Western and Southern Financial Masters & Women’s Open Aug. 8–23. The following month, the annual AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Championship Series will take place over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4–6). While in Warren County, stay for the Ohio Renaissance Festival, Sept. 5–Oct. 25, to watch jousts, learn traditional crafts like glassblowing and feast on roasted turkey legs. Or head over to the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival, Oct. 10–11, celebrating its 40th anniversary, for all things German, along with entertainment, contests and artisan vendors.