cleveland museum of natural history

Winter Break

Feeling cooped up already? These 30 destinations offer great places to spend a winter afternoon.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History
“Where the ice age and Cleveland collide” could have aptly described the polar vortex of 2014. It also sums up the Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s latest exhibition, “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age.” “The star of this exhibit is a replica of the most complete baby mammoth that’s ever been discovered,” says Mary Rouse, manager of public programs. The museum also features dinosaurs, Native American artifacts, wild animals and more. (Don’t worry, the lions are stuffed.) Adults $14, children 3–18 $10, college students with ID, seniors and children 2 and under free; Mon.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Wed. 10 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m. (closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day); 1 Wade Oval Dr., Cleveland 44106, 800/317-9155,

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Ohio History Center:
Our state’s story comes to life at this museum, which includes “The Nature of Ohio” exhibit gallery. It covers geology, plants and animals and features the giant Conway mastodon at its entrance. 800 E. 17th St., Columbus 43211,

Museum of Natural History & Science:
From the Dinosaur Hall to a walk through an ice age-era Ohio Valley to actual moon rocks, this place captures the imagination. Cincinnati Museum Center, 1301 Western Ave., Cincinnati 45203,

COSI Planetarium
Unveiled just before Thanksgiving, COSI Columbus’ newly reopened 200-seat planetarium has the ability to not only offer audiences the feeling of rocketing off to Mars but also what it’s like to travel inside human cells. Constellation shows highlight the night sky as it appears during that specific time of year, so guests can scope out stars on the 60-foot dome and then step outdoors and identify them overhead. COSI’s planetarium also features motion-sensor technology that will allow for enhanced audience interactivity. “The gestural interface is just like when you would play Wii or Xbox Kinect so that the system can run from motion,” explains Kate Storm, COSI’s director of theaters. “We want to have opportunities for people to take control.” Planetarium facilitators also tailor each presentation to answer viewers’ questions, so no two showings are the same. $5 (requires museum admission, visit website for pricing). Showings now include “Our Universe Above” and the animated “The Alien That Stole Christmas.” Planetarium shows start at 10:30 a.m. and the last show is at 3:30 p.m. (closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Christmas Day) 333 W. Broad St., Columbus 43215, 614/228-2674,

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Shafran Planetarium & Mueller Observatory: The Cleveland Museum of Natural History’s 88-seat planetarium shares the origins of the universe with “Life: A Cosmic Story” and offers seasonal features. 1 Wade Oval Dr., Cleveland 44106,

Drake Planetarium:
Programs range from glimpses into astronomy to “Let It Snow,” a full-dome animation show set to festive classics from Chuck Berry, Frank Sinatra and more. 2020 Sherman Ave., Cincinnati 45212,

Jeffrey’s Antique Gallery
Take an afternoon adventure into the past at this well-known antiques destination located along Interstate 75 in Findlay. The popular antiques spot boasts 38,000 square feet of vintage finds ranging from toys to furniture to army fatigues. Those looking for kitchen goods will find an exceptional array of graniteware and glassware, and collectors flock to Jeffrey’s Antique Gallery on a weekly basis to search for new-arrival pieces that were originally crafted in northwest Ohio’s glass-factory strongholds, such as Tiffin and Fostoria. And while inventory ranges widely, the place is serious about one rule: “We try to ensure everything is more than 25 years old,” says Jennifer Wensink, Jeffrey’s Antique Gallery’s director of marketing. “A lot of antique malls are really lenient about that. It’s really important to us.” Open daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m. (closed Christmas Day); 11326 County Rd. 99, Findlay 45840, 419/423-7500,

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Heart of Ohio Antique Center: Covering 116,000 square feet, this sprawling antique mall features furniture, glassware, toys, jewelry and more at 1,400 booths. 4785 E. National Rd., Springfield 45505,

I-76 Antique Mall:
Flywheel coffee mills, gas pumps, butter churns — whatever unusual antique you’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll find it at this 50,000-square-foot shopping spot. 4284 Lynn Rd., Ravenna 44266,

Imagination Station
Hands-on learning for kids is what it’s all about at this museum, which offers eight themed worlds. Fun experiments and activities cover topics such as agriculture, healthy eating, engineering, energy, the brain and water. Kids can look inside a living beehive, take a seat on a tractor or test their perception in the Distorted Gravity Room, where they’re challenged to face a particular direction and do a variety of activities including pushups. It’s easy … at first. “You turn around 180 degrees and can’t even do one,” says chief scientist Carl Nelson. “It’s messing with your brain and the signals you’re getting from your eyes and your [inner] ear.” Through April, kids can even uncover fossils as part of the “Dinosaurs Unearthed” temporary exhibition. Adults $10, children 3–12 $8, children 2 and under free. “Dinosaurs Unearthed” requires additional fee. Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m. (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day); 1 Discovery Way, Toledo 43604, 419/244-2674,

MORE Fun For Kids

Boonshoft Museum of Discovery: Catch a show in the space theater, peer at the meerkats and kinkajous in the zoo or learn about robots at this kaleidoscopic science center. 2600 DeWeese Pkwy., Dayton 45414,

Oh Wow!: Everything is interactive at this STEM-based discovery center that lets kids climb a rotating rock wall, radio family members from inside a real airplane cockpit and more. 11 W. Federal St., Youngstown 44503,

Jungle-Jims- by OSP Photography
Jungle Jim’s International Market

Grocery shopping can either be a drag or an adventure, and Jungle Jim’s International Market in Fairfield is definitely at the wild end of that spectrum. From the animatronic ear of corn and stately stick of butter that greet shoppers to the still-working segment of the former King’s Island monorail installed outside the store, the choices here go far beyond paper or plastic. Merchandise comes from more than 70 countries: look for English mustards, tropical fruits and goods from Africa. (Ever heard of fufu flour?) And all of it is stocked with a side of kitsch. “Every seafood department needs a 40-foot boat, right?” quips Phill Adams, the market’s director of development. Other fun finds from founder Jim Bonaminio’s 6.5-acre emporium include a giant singing lion dressed like Elvis and specialty displays built out of bumper cars from Cincinnati’s Coney Island amusement park. Open daily 8 a.m.–10 p.m., but holiday-season hours vary; call or visit website to confirm. 544 Dixie Hwy., Fairfield 45014, 513/674-6000,

Food Fun

Heini’s Cheese Chalet:
Heini’s makes nearly three-dozen varieties of cheese in Ohio’s Amish Country, and free cheese-making tours offer insight into the 11-step process. 6005 County Rd. 77, Millersburg 44654,

Bob Evans Farm:
Tour the Bob Evans Homestead Museum to learn about the history of the famous restaurant chain that started here. (closes for season Dec. 23) 791 Farmview Rd., Bidwell 45614,

Big Fun Toy Store

Steve Presser was on vacation in Chicago when he stepped into Goodies, a vintage toy store, and saw his future. “Everything I wanted in life and collecting and toys and crazy gizmos and gadgets was in that store,” recalls Presser, the founder of Big Fun toy stores. The original one opened in Cleveland Heights in 1991, followed by a second location on Cleveland’s west side in 2009. Last year, Presser’s former employee, Jason Williams, opened a third Big Fun in Columbus. Packed with pop culture finds, ranging from Star Wars action figures to Nintendo Entertainment System games to Legos, Big Fun offers a flashback, no matter what decade you grew up in. “We are a pop culture museum,” says Presser. “You can walk through a pop culture timeline and see what was going on.” Call or visit website for store hours; Central Ohio: 672 N. High St., Columbus 43215, 614/228-8697,; Northeast Ohio: 1814 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights 44118, 216/371-4386,; 11512 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland 44102, 216/631-4386,

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The Bomb Shelter: This 18,000-square-foot retro superstore is filled with old-school finds ranging from antique furniture to funky lamps to vintage automotive supplies. 923 Bank St., Akron 44305,

The Merry-Go-Round Museum: Historic carousel animals of all kinds ranging from horses to dogs to deer offer insight into the history of the nostalgia-inducing amusement ride. 301 Jackson St., Sandusky 44870,

Cleveland-botanical-garden (photo by Peter Larson)
Cleveland Botanical Garden
More than 100 decorated evergreens, thousands of holiday plants and dozens of captivating gingerbread houses greet guests as the Cleveland Botanical Garden embraces the season of light with its annual “Glow” celebration. “The gingerbread houses are one of the bigger attractions,” says Cynthia Druckenbrod, the botanical garden’s vice president of horticulture. “This year we have an entrant who does very large-scale gingerbread houses, and it’s a replica of [Akron’s] Stan Hywet Hall.” When it’s time to be temporarily transported to a warmer locale, visitors can step into one of the garden’s two indoor biomes. One replicates the spiny desert of Madagascar and the other simulates the rainforest of Costa Rica. A tropical butterfly just might keep you company as you climb the canopy walk. Adults $16, children $12, children 2 and under free; Tues., Thur. & Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Wed. & Fri. 10 a.m.–9 p.m., Sun. noon–6 p.m., Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve 10 a.m.–3 p.m. (closed Mondays, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day); 11030 East Blvd., Cleveland 44106, 216/721-1600,

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Krohn Conservatory: The palm house, fern collection and desert and bonsai rooms are made over into a winter garden with villages of miniatures, lights and holiday plants. 1501 Eden Park Dr., Cincinnati 45202,

Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens:
On select December evenings, Franklin Park stays open until 10 p.m. so visitors can take in some holiday magic on the garden grounds. 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203,

Southern Ohio Museum

A former bank building along the Ohio River in downtown Portsmouth holds thousands of treasures that offer insight into the history of our  state. Since 1979, the Southern Ohio Museum has shared both ancient and contemporary regional art with visitors, from permanent collections such as “Art of the Ancients” to traveling exhibitions focusing on modern-day artists with roots here. Guests can gain a deeper understanding of southern Ohio’s Hopewell and Adena cultures by browsing 10,000 artifacts from the historic eras. “We’ve got effigy pipes, arrowheads, bones, fishhooks, all kinds of things,” says Charlotte Gordon, the museum’s artistic director. “There are a lot of people who come down to see the [Native American] mounds, and then come and look at the objects that we have.” The museum is also home to the largest collection of work by Portsmouth-born artist Clarence Holbrook Carter. Voluntary donation $2, students and children 12 and under $1; Tues.–Fri. 10 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat. 1–5 p.m. (closed Dec. 24–Jan. 4); 825 Gallia St., Portsmouth 45662, 740/354-5629,

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Springfield Museum of Art:
Beginning Dec. 6, visitors can take in outdoor scenes from our state during “Painting Ohio Prairies: A Year in the Life,” the 2014 exhibition of the Ohio Plein Air Society. 107 Cliff Park Rd., Springfield 45504,

Zanesville Museum of Art:
The “70th Ohio Annual Exhibition” runs through Jan. 3, showcasing artists from throughout the state. The museum’s Arts of Ohio Galleries offers 19th- and 20th-century works. 620 Military Rd., Zanesville 43701,

Newport Aquarium

A short trip across the Ohio River promises a glimpse of life under the sea. The Newport Aquarium, located about two miles from downtown Cincinnati, features more than 70 exhibits, including a 385,000-gallon shark tank. Another crowd-pleaser is Bravo, an 85-year-old, 650-pound Galapagos tortoise. “He recognizes you when you walk into the exhibit,” says Ric Urban, one of the Newport Aquarium animal ambassadors who takes care of Bravo. “He’ll get up from his resting spot, walk over … You can see his eyes light up.” This month, Scuba Santa joins the tanks, outfitted with a microphone-enabled diving mask that lets him joke with visitors and read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Adults $23, children 2–12 $15; Open daily 10 a.m.–6 p.m. 1 Aquarium Way, Newport, Ky. 41071, 859/261-7444,

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Columbus Zoo and Aquarium: The Manatee Coast building rehabilitates and releases injured manatees, just one of two places outside Florida to do so. Visitors can also check out stingrays, sea turtles and more. 4850 W. Powell Rd., Powell 43065,

Greater Cleveland Aquarium:
Highlights of this aquarium along the Cuyahoga River include a 230,000-gallon shark tunnel that features 34 species of underwater creatures. 2000 Sycamore St., Cleveland 44113,

Lou & Gib Reese Ice Arena
Kids and families have been skating at this Newark ice rink for nearly three decades. It remains a community gathering spot that offers youth hockey leagues and lessons, but more than 400 pairs of rental skates also make it a welcoming destination for drop-in visitors looking for a way to chill out for an afternoon. The arena hosts its annual holiday performance on Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. The themed show on ice features more than 60 skaters in 25 performance numbers, opening with a piece that pairs six hockey players and six figure skaters. “It’s an old-fashioned pond-skating number, [like] a Currier and Ives print,” says Margy Bennett, the arena’s skating director. “They all wear old-fashioned clothes, like they’re skating outdoors.” Open skate adults $6, children $3 (skate rental $3); hours vary; call or visit website for more information. (closed Christmas Day); 936 Sharon Valley Rd., Newark 43055, 740/349-6784,

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Chiller Ice Rinks: Burn off early-onset cabin fever at one of central Ohio’s Chiller arenas, which offer family skating sessions on weekends. This month, you may even spot Hockey Santa during open skate. Visit website for locations,

Lock 3:
A trip to downtown Akron this time of year isn’t complete without swinging by Lock 3, which boasts plenty of Christmas festivities and the state’s largest outdoor ice rink. 200 S. Main St., Akron 44308,