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Ohio Travel Tips


Statehouse, Columbus (614) 752-6350
Built between 1839 and 1861, the Ohio Statehouse is known for its simple and elegant design. Although the outside of the building's "dome" is drum shaped, the rotunda inside features an interior dome, crowned with a 29-foot skylight of a hand-painted Seal of Ohio. An interesting feature of the rotunda is its marble floor made of 5,000 pieces of hand-cut marble from around the world; the 13-stone circular centerpiece represents the 13 colonies, the three marble bands circling the colonies represent the three unexplored territories at the time of Ohio's statehood.The rotunda is different from others in its choice of colors. Pale peach with pale green accents, and green ferns, offering a bit of frivolity, normally shunned in other state Capitols. An intriguing aspect of the Ohio Capitol is its basement, "the Crypt." The Crypt once stored the building's boilers, but now houses a museum displaying state artifacts and historical documents, a cafe, a gift shop, and a marble map of the state of Ohio. These rooms all connect in a subterranean maze of arched corridors, something like the home of the Phantom of the Opera -- Just fascinating. Now, if that's not enough. Take a walk through the Atrium which connects the 1861 Capitol to its new addition, built in 1900. The distinct differences between the two interiors is remarkable. The older of the two is simple, unadorned, light and open. The newer of the two, was built when the state had more money in its coffers and could "show off" a bit. The Grand Staircase is heavily adorned with gold accents surrounded by paintings framed in gilded gold. Most other states, when they outgrew their 1800's statehouse, simply built another one, more grand, more competitive to European structures. When Ohio outgrew their Capitol they, simply added this extravagant new building to the old, connecting it with a unique and marvelous Atrium. It's an exciting way to see the changes in architectural tastes.

Check it out . . .Throughout the building are "Light Courts." In the early 1800s, when the Statehouse was originally designed, electric lighting had not yet been invented, so the architect added four light courts, which are courtyards within the building, permitting natural lighting throughout the building, putting interior windows in rooms that would normally not face an exterior wall.

Check it out . . . A statue of the city's namesake, Christopher Columbus stands on the grounds of the Capitol and a replica of Columbus's 1492 ship, "Santa Maria" is docked about a block away from the Capitol on the Scioto River.

German Village, Columbus (614) 221-8888
This 230-acre restored historic district was originally settled in the early 1800s by German settlers. Today the the cobblestone streets, brick sidewalks, and charming brick buildings offer a pleasant pocket of gentility among the buzz of Columbus's highways and city life that surrounds it.

The Museum Center at Union Station, Cincinnati (513) 287-7000
The Cincinnati Museum Center houses the Cincinnati Historical Society Library, Cincinnati History Museum, Cinergy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Robert D. Lindner Family OmniMax theater. But the real museum piece is the building itself. Opened as a train station in 1933 in the middle of the Great Depression, Union Terminal was one of the country's most spectacular examples of Art Deco architecture, and the most expensive train station ever built. It was designed for travelers to rest their feet and take a gander at the grandeur.

This exterior shape of this striking building is the largest free-standing half dome in the western world, and a cascading pool in front of it that rivals the set of a lavish 1940s Busby Berkeley film. It was called "Union" Terminal because it combined all of the railroad lines and terminals into one. It's interior rotunda was designed to impress the many traveler who would be passing through. Magnificent murals, made up of glass-tile mosaics, were the largest assemblage of secular mosaics in the US. The murals were originally planned to be oil on canvas, but the concept was changed to glass tiles for easier maintenance, glass can easily be wiped down and retains its color longer. (Many of the mosaics have been restored; some are still in the Union Station, others have been moved to other transportation areas such as the Cincinnati airport). The dome in the rotunda is 120 feet high, and is referred to as the "Whispering Arc." A visitor can stand at one end of the corner and whisper to a friend on the other corner -- hundreds of feet away -- and the acoustics will carry their voices, clear as a bell. The bright yellow walls of the rotunda were designed to get the attention of weary travelers, and make them take notice "You're in Cincinnati, now, baby!"

Carew Tower/Netherland Hotel, Cincinnati (513) 579-9735
Carew Tower was constructed in 1930 by the same firm that built the Empire State Building. The tower's zigzag design is Classic Art Deco Skyscraper, as are the metalwork and grillwork on the elevators and lights. But what makes this building uniquely "Cincy" is the garland of colorful Rookwood floral tiles. Adjacent to the tower is the Netherland Hotel, built before the Great Depression strangled the economies of America's cities. This lavish hotel combines Art Deco design with a distinctively French accent.

United States Air Force Museum, Dayton (937) 255-3286
This museum is an absolute shocker. I went under duress, expecting to be bored to tears, but instead was brought to tears by many of the touching exhibits that show the human side of aviation. In addition to showcasing the technological pride of aeronautics, the museum tells the thrilling story of aviation from the hot air balloon to the Wright Brothers, to today's stealth aircraft -- But woven between these scientific accomplishments are stories of the human struggle and sacrifice that took place behind the scenes, behind the headlines, behind the flags. For example the young WWII pilot who wrote to his parents about how much his love of flying a plane and enclosed a beautiful poem about the thrill of soaring through the sky, slipping from the "surly bonds of earth," and "touching the face of God," only to have his aircraft crash just months after penning the poem. Or, learn about the brilliance and determination of the two Wright brothers. Or read famous quotes from so-called "experts" of the day who said man could never fly. Or, the General in 1930 who said it is "utterly unfeasible" for women to fly, as they are too "high strung." And there are tons -- literally -- tons of aeroplane exhibits, some that are not very well publicized, such as the 1950s craft, "BUFF," which stands for Big Ugly Fat Flyer. These planes are the real thing. Not models. And some of these, you can acutally go into the cockpit and get the "feel" of piloting. The museum states that they try very hard not to glorify war, but to show aviation's part in battles. They do a splendid job of revealing the two faces of technology and warfare.Even the most pacifist dove will enjoy the Air Force Museum.

Check it out . . . Don't miss, the mosaic of the Wright Brother's first flight, made of 165,000 tiles. And right beside it, the quilt made from patches of every WWII Air Force Base that closed from 1947-1997. Lastly, the Holocaust Tunnel is an exhibit that shows the ultimate conclusion to hate, fear, and prejudice. The constant echo, "Never Again" is repeated throughout the exhibit. One victim wrote, "A wound heals with time, but the scar is forever."

Tip: About a block from the museum is the Presidential and Research Development Hangars where you can tour nine Air Force One retired planes, such as the first Air Force One, the plan designed for FDR, and the special elevator to carry him in his wheelchair. See the presidential plan that took JFK to Dallas in 1963 and brought home LBJ as the new President, taking the oath of office in the air, while the widow of the former president and his lifeless body was being carried home on the same flight.

Golden Lamb Inn & Restaurant, and Shaker Museum, Lebanon (513) 932-5065
Encompassing a large corner of an historic town lined with antique shops, Ohio's oldest inn and restaurant fed and bedded famous 19th century literary and political figures, such as Charles Dickens and ten US Presidents. Political discussions of Ohio's statehood, canals, railroads, and the War of 1812 took place in this legendary hostelry. It's rumored that when Charles Dickens stayed here he was livid that libations were not allowed, and seems to have put up a quite a stink. But the gracious hotel repaid his patronage by naming a room in his honor. The inn also houses a large collection of Shaker furniture.


Spring Valley Frontier Campground, (937) 862-4510
This campground is very "campy." Far from traffic of any kind, it offers wooded lots and a quiet escape from the bustle of city life. The atmosphere is "cabin in the woods" and, in fact, scattered between RV sites are cabins, adding to its rustic charm. At first, we thought this place too out-of-the-way for our visits to Dayton, Cincinnati, and Columbus, but, really, it's smack in the middle, with almost equi-distance to all. The drawbacks are the cold, cement showers and bathrooms, and long, inconvenient drives to the nearest grocery store. The hosts are super-friendly, though, with an eagerness to be helpful and accommodating in any way that will make their guests comfortable.

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