While I had always thought of Ohio as being a destination with little to offer, I recently learned the middle-of-nowhere yet centrally located town of Hocking Hills has much to offer those looking for an unusual vacation. To add some lesser-known fare to your Ohio itinerary, here is a guide to quirky Hocking Hills.
Zip-Line Like Superman… At Night
Hocking Hills Canopy Tours has a superman “SuperZip” zip-line named one of the “10 Amazing Zip-Lines Around The World” by Discovery.com. Adrenaline junkies will fly superman-style for a quarter mile at 50 miles per hour. To add an unusual spin to the excursion, visitors can do the SuperZip at night with a glow necklace being your only light. The already scary activity becomes extra scary when you can’t tell what’s in front of you. And with Hocking Hills being one of the most haunted places in the country, you know you’re in for something unusual.
Note: There are great day options as well. Visitors can choose to partake in an immersive forest canopy course going over swinging bridges and flying through the trees, caves and the Hocking River, or do a combo tour with Hocking Hills Canoe Livery where you can kayak, zip-line and kayak again.
Visit USA’s Only Washboard Factory
At the Columbus Washboard Company, owner Jacqui Barnett will take you on a tour of history at the country’s only washboard factory. You’ll get to see how the washboard-making process works, from ancient machines carving locally-sourced wood to creating Ohio-sourced boxes. The best part is the musical performance you’ll put on as she teaches you the washboard’s A note, the metal area, B note, the wooden area on the front and C note, the side of the board. Our group played along to a song, getting in touch with our inner rock stars. You can purchase mini-washboards, handmade soaps and beautiful glassware. Bonus: The factory has donated 4,000+ washboards to soldiers, and you can see their letters of gratitude while knowing you’re donation is helping a good cause.
Browse The Thousands Of Pencil Sharpeners At The Pencil Sharpener Museum
Once located in Reverend Paul A. Johnson’s yard, there are now 3,500 pencil sharpeners in the Pencil Sharpener Museum. Started over 20 years ago, the collection is touted as the largest in the country. After Paul’s death, his wife moved the sharpeners to the Hocking Hills Regional Welcome Center. Visitors can browse thousands of pencil sharpeners in categories of animals, body, cats, Christmas, Disneyland, Dogs, Easter, Food, Games, Globes/World, Halloween, Hearts, History, Horses, Miscellaneous, Religion, Space, Spain, Special and Zodiac. Every single sharper is different from the next in some way. While it’s interesting to see the quirky sharpeners, try not to think too hard about where the pencils are inserted.
Try Your Luck At Ghost Hunting
While you can do cave hikes and treks through hemlocks at Hocking Hills State Park, a more unusual option is to go at night and hunt for ghosts. Along with being a trained naturalist, local Pat Quackenbush is a certified ghost hunter. He’ll bring his pendulums, EMF detectors , digital infrared thermometers and spirit boxes so you can head into the woods and find some ghosts at the area’s most haunted site, Ash Cave. He’ll tell you true ghost story about a woman named Mary who was murdered at the once-onsite hotel, as well as Richard Howe and his hounds who can still be heard roaming the woods late at night. Don’t believe in ghosts? This trek has turned many skeptics into believers.
Listen To The Stories Of The Shawnee In The Forest
Despite having played on the Sachem Shawnee soccer team in high school, I never realized you could actually head into the woods and listen to the stories of the tribe. Hocking Hills Adventure Trek takes you on an educational hike led by a naturalist guide, then ends the walk with a storytelling session done by an actual Shawnee Indian. Wehyehpihehrsehnhwah recounts stories told to him by his grandfather about how the web of life connects all Earth’s beings, and the small strings matter just as much as the larger ones. To learn more about my storytelling experience, click here.
Have A Traditional Scottish Feast At Glenlaurel
Glenlaurel Inn & Spa is an eco-friendly accommodation with a Scottish twist. Their 100-year-old Scottish links golf course is of the traditional kind, and the inn itself has Scottish accents throughout. The main event, however, comes in the evening. Once happy hour is over and it is time for dinner guests will enjoy traditional bagpipe music, followed by a customary Scottish poem. From there, a multi-course dinner is enjoyed by candle light, with water served in metal goblets and decor that exudes a castle-like ambiance. Typical dishes include rack of lamb, sliced salmon over spring salad, seafood du jour and pheasant. After dinner, patrons have a chance to meet the chef.
Lose Your Lunch On A Scenic Plane Ride
For those who want a scenic adrenaline rush, Pilot Harry Sowers of Scenic Air Tours will give you just that. It’s immediately clear upon meeting him how passionate he is about flying, and he loves taking interested parties up in his 4-seater Cessna 172 Sky Hawk from the tiny Vinton County Airport. The view is breathtaking as you see the lush landscape, flowing rivers and cozy cottages below. Try to sit in the front seat, as you’ll get to help fly and land the airplane. Moreover, when Harry shifts gears and takes you to zero gravity you’ll feel like you’re an astronaut on the moon. Just make sure you don’t eat too much beforehand, as the feeling is akin to a steep drop on a roller coaster.
Take A Horse & Wagon Ride Through A Haunted Town
For something unusual and also a bit spooky, John Hutchison takes interested parties through state forest to the haunted area of Moonville and back. Moonville was once a mining town, but locals just kept leaving until there was nobody left. Today, you’ll find a tiny cemetery in the woods as well as a haunted tunnel (pictured above), said to be the hangout of a headless brakeman carrying a lantern. John has the voice of a storyteller, which adds to the experience as he talks about the history of the town as well as relays ghost stories based on fact. If interested in taking one of his tours, call 740-698-8922 or 740-818-8280.
Make Your Own Bacon, Tomato Leaf And Santa’s Pipe Candle
Owned by Judy and Mike Hard, the Wind Chime Shop is not only home to beautiful wind chimes, but also a large and unusual selection of candles. You can either purchase a scented candle, some of which include Bacon, Tomato Leaf, Yuzu, Cilantro and Santa’s Pipe, or make your own. For $15, you can choose up to three scents. You’ll mix and stir the scented essential oils like a scientist as well as make your own packaging. When I partook in the activity, I created a candle I called “Sunday Booze Brunch,” a combination of Champagne, Bacon and Maple Syrup.
Eat A Slice Of Cake The Size Of Your Head While Singing Appalachian Karaoke
The Brass Ring Golf Club is a casual eatery with a local dining philosophy. Chef Moe is all about fun, and adds this to her quality recipes and satisfying “comfort food with a Cleveland twist.” Some popular dishes include deep-fried Asiago-crusted chicken served on mashed potatoes or penne pasta Alfredo and a ribeye steak sandwich topped with blue cheese and beer-battered onion rings. The best part, however, is the desserts. Cakes and pies the size of your head are created in a aesthetically-pleasing fashion, yet still manage to taste better than they look. My favorite is the Peanut Butter Buckeye Pie (shown above), a mix of melted peanut butter, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, chocolate chips and Ganache served in graham cracker crust. Note: The cake above was photographed after being attacked by starving sweet-toothed travel writers. They just couldn’t wait.
For a really interesting time, head there on the first Friday of the month at 9:00 PM to belt out tunes at their monthly karaoke event. While you’ve probably sang karaoke before, you haven’t really until you’ve done it Appalachian-style. I’ll leave it to you to guess what that means.
*Disclosure: My trip to Hocking Hills was sponsored by the Ohio Tourism Board. I was not required to write about the trip and was not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.